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March 21, 2000 11:25pm
"Dr. Laura" Protested at Paramount
Source: News Wire

(WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA) -- The movement protesting Paramount Television Group's plans for a syndicated television show by top-rated radio talk show host "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger demonstrated a physical presence -- beyond its myriad e-mails, faxes, phone calls, Web site, and print ads -- outside Paramount's Hollywood studios on March 21. Their numbers were variously reported at 200, 400 and 500, while counterdemonstrators across the street were said to number "about two dozen" by some sources and as many as 75 by others. Schlessinger believes homosexual acts are immoral and "deviant," that same-gender attractions are the result of a "biological error," that so-called "reparative therapies" are effective in changing homosexual orientation, and that many gay men are predatory pedophiles.

Demonstrators chanted, "No show, no show" and carried placards including "I am not a biological error" and "Hate is a Paramount concern." The protest was organized by StopDrLaura.com, HateWatch.org and the Horizons Foundation. The StopDrLaura.com Web site has received more than seven million "hits" in its less than three weeks of existence, and its current offerings include a "virtual vigil" for those who would like to have been part of the Paramount Protest but were unable to attend.

Paramount issued a statement essentially repeating its March 10 communique, that, "we are committed to presenting society's moral and ethical issues without creating or contributing to an environment of hurt, hate or intolerance."

Some of the protesters were Paramount employees, including the demonstration's lead-off speaker David Lee, co-creator and executive producer of the NBC hit sitcom "Frasier." He said, "I'm here because something I've worked for during the past 15 years has betrayed me." He charged that Paramount executives were "behaving ... irresponsibly by giving a platform to a woman who is hurting the gay community, literally." Lee said that he had joined the protest movement only after his efforts to talk with Paramount executives failed. He declared that, "It is outrageous that Paramount chooses to be in business with a woman who is literally dangerous to the gay community. She may not have a club in her hand but she encourages an atmosphere where those who do wield weapons feel free to use them."

Peter Teague, executive director of the San Francisco-based Horizons Foundation, said, "It is now up to Paramount to mitigate the damage Dr. Laura causes and refuses to acknowledge by shelving the ill-conceived concept of a 'Dr. Laura' TV program."

West Hollywood City Councilmember Steve Martin read his Council's March 20 resolution saying, "Let it be resolved that the City of West Hollywood condemns Paramount Studios for its part in spreading Dr. Schlessinger's message of hate by giving her a wider forum from which she can shamelessly attack a minority community."

Another speaker was high-profile attorney and Los Angeles radio talk show host Gloria Allred, who told CBS News, "If this minority can be humiliated and scapegoated and subjected to stereotypes and false statements about them, can any minority feel safe?"

Similarly, lesbian event producer and StopDrLaura.com co-founder Robin Tyler told the crowd, "Paramount would never give a TV show to a host that called any other minority 'biological errors'." Noting that two years before the sitcom "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer" had been cancelled in the face of protests of its portrayals of African-Americans, Tyler said, "We demand equal respect, not a double standard!" She said, "Although we believe in freedom of speech, we do not believe there is a constitutional right entitling people to a syndicated television show." Should Paramount proceed with its plans, she promised, "We intend to go after sponsors. We intend to go after local affiliates carrying this show."

David Goldman, executive director of Boston-based Hatewatch.org, a civil rights group monitoring hate groups, said of Schlessinger, "We are in no way trying to prevent her from exercising her freedoms, but we believe that people should know what she is saying and respond accordingly."

Even GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, left the suites for the streets on this one, with its executive director Joan Garry -- herself a former TV executive -- in the lineup of rally speakers. When Paramount's plans were announced last month, GLAAD entered into negotiations with studio executives, hoping to achieve some "balance" in the TV show, so that Schlessinger's opinions and the suspect right-wing research she's cited to buttress them would not be the only information offered about gays and lesbians.

What turned GLAAD from this patient approach which has so often been successful for the group was Schlessinger's apparent recantation of her March 10 "clarification," which many described as an apology. A column by conservative Don Feder in the March 15 "Boston Herald" said, "On Friday, Schlessinger issued a statement regretting 'words I've used' that have 'hurt some people.' This is a clarification, she told me, not an apology. She will continue to recommend reparative therapy (for homosexuals who want to change), to oppose same-sex marriage and adoption, and champion Judeo-Christian sexual ethics." At that point, GLAAD executive director Joan Garry issued a statement that, "This disavowal of her own words demonstrates that Schlessinger cannot be held accountable for what she says publicly. Because she has breached the integrity of her own statement, GLAAD now has no assurance that Schlessinger will not publicly defame lesbians and gay men in her radio or upcoming tel! ! ! evision broadcasts. GLAAD now calls upon Paramount to... [abandon] its plans to produce and distribute any program featuring Laura Schlessinger."

Other rally speakers included Rabbi Denise Eger of the gay-affirming Congregation Kol Ami; African-American sexologist Dr. Sylvia Rhue; Reverend Troy Perry, moderator of the Universial Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches; and representatives of the national Human Rights Campaign, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, the statewide lobby group California Alliance for Pride and Equality (CAPE), and the Los Angeles chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG).

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