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August 10, 2000 10:29pm
More Sponsors Sick of Dr. Laura
Source: Planet Out

Still more advertisers have abandoned the top-rated radio show of anti-gay host "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger in the face of nationwide protests of her upcoming syndicated TV show. Most embarrassing for Schlessinger and her radio syndicator Premiere Radio Networks, they include Priceline.com, erasing the last of three sponsors Premiere proclaimed July 24 were "standing by" her; the other two, retail giant Sears and TV service EchoStar/DISH, already fled last week. The other new refugees are Texas' Kroger grocery chain, Gateway computers and the Red Lobster restaurant chain. The protests continue.

Fleeing Sponsors
Those who protested Priceline.com's support of Schlessinger's radio show received e-mail responses from Priceline chief executive officer Jay Walker reading, "While priceline.com supports freedom of speech, we also reserve the right to structure and adjust our advertising mix to fit our overall marketing strategy. The Dr. Laura show does not fit that strategy and we have discontinued our advertising on the program."

Priceline both advertised heavily on the radio show and ran banner ads on Schlessinger's Web site. According to StopDrLaura.com, lead organizer of the protests, Schlessinger recently wrote on her site, "Speaking of Priceline.com, I want to thank them for all the things they do to support my program, my mission and me... Whenever I ask them to, they Do The Right Thing! So Thank You Priceline."

GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which has taken the lead in discussing Schlessinger's anti-gay messages with broadcasters and with her TV producer Paramount, issued a statement August 10 from executive director Joan Garry saying, "The importance of Priceline.com's decision to distance itself from Laura Schlessinger cannot be overestimated. Priceline.com's exit is a clear signal that even Laura's most loyal sponsors are not willing to associate their brand names with her defamatory message of derision and discrimination."

After listing the former sponsors, Garry continued, "From the beginning, GLAAD's campaign has focused not on Laura as an entertainment personality, but rather on her defamatory descriptions of lesbians and gay people. We hope that Laura will take these corporations' message to heart and commit to undoing the damage that her words have caused -- to her audience, to the lesbian and gay community, and to her programs' financial health."

On August 8, GLAAD issued a media statement regarding Schlessinger's national sponsor Natrol, a health and beauty product company: "Natrol, Inc.'s statement that it likely will not renew its sponsorship of Laura Schlessinger's radio program is a bold step. On July 20, Schlessinger beseeched her audience to support Natrol and began endorsing Natrol products on her program. Considering that Premiere Radio Networks President Kraig Kitchin -- Schlessinger's radio syndicator and one of her vocal supporters -- recently joined Natrol's board of directors, the company's decision to reconsider its advertising contract with The Dr. Laura Program is encouraging. Since Schlessinger's stalled 'Thank Our Sponsors' campaign began in late July, four major national sponsors -- Sears, Roebuck & Co., Gateway, EchoStar, and now Natrol -- have ceased supporting her programming. Clearly, more and more corporations are deciding that they do ! no! t want to associate their brands with Schlessinger's defamatory attacks."

StopDrLaura.com on August 10 obtained a statement from Red Lobster senior lead guest relations representative Stephen Herring that, "Red Lobster does not endorse Dr. Laura's remarks regarding the gay and lesbian community and ceased specifically purchasing advertising on her program in May." Schlessinger's "remarks" have included labeling homosexuality a "biological error" while claiming it can be cured by therapy, saying that substantial numbers of gay men are pedophiles, and saying children should be taken from their gay and lesbian parents (for extensive quotes, see StopDrLaura.com).

StopDrLaura.com on August 7 confirmed an e-mail message from Fortune 250 company Gateway's director of consumer communications Brad Williams that, "For some time Gateway has followed a policy of not advertising in media whose editorial content is discriminatory. Gateway advertising runs in a variety of national and local media throughout the year -- and in this case, a media buy was made that was clearly inconsistent with that policy. We have discontinued advertising on this program, and are reviewing our procedures for ensuring that our advertising policies are strictly adhered to by our advertising and media agencies."

StopDrLaura.com/Texas reported that Kroger's stores in their state stopped advertising on the radio show in response to complaints.

Protests Continue
GLAAD placed an ad in the August 10 edition of Boston Business Journal to advise potential sponsors of some of Schlessinger's harsh statements regarding gays and lesbians, single mothers, and non-traditional families. Boston's WCVB-TV Channel 5 has already had talks with GLAAD and been targeted by a street demonstration. The station's general manager has indicated his intention to broadcast the upcoming TV show, but station spokesperson Caroline Waddel told the Boston Globe August 8 that a decision has not yet been made.

StopDrLaura activists in Denver, Colorado were scheduled to meet with KUSA-TV Channel 9 management on August 9 and have planned a demonstration at the station on August 13. The station's Roger Ogden told the Denver Post there is a contractual obligation to begin broadcasting the syndicated Schlessinger TV show on September 18 (a week after its premiere) but that the station has already advised producer Paramount that it will be monitoring the content carefully. He said, "If it gets into hateful, unbalanced talk relative to gay and lesbian concerns, that will be unacceptable to us. If it steps out of bounds, we might ultimately decide not to carry the show." Ogden's own first look at the show, which has been taping rehearsals, is still a week away.

StopDrLaura.com counts 22 street demonstrations so far and there are more to come, including coordinated national protests September 10 and 11 as the TV program debuts. Fourteen cities are already lined up for those National Days of Protest. This month in addition to the Denver protest at KUSA-TV on the 13th, actions are planned for Tucson, Arizona on August 20, and in Phoenix, Arizona and Austin, Texas on August 26.

The only national sponsor for the TV show to be publicly identified, Procter & Gamble, was the first major advertiser to back away from Schlessinger.

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