Yesterday GLAAD sent our members a Call to Action, asking them to hold CNN accountable for an April 6 segment featuring so-called “ex-gay” activist Richard Cohen. Cohen had been invited onto CNN Newsroom with Kyra Phillips to discuss a story about efforts to repeal an outdated California law requiring the State Department of Mental Health to conduct research into the “causes” and “cures” of being gay. But CNN failed to note that the nation’s leading medical and mental health authorities have uniformly dismissed the idea that being gay is something to be “treated,” and neglected to report that Cohen is not licensed and has been discredited by major mainstream psychological associations.
Following wide outcry from the LGBT community, CNN aired a follow-up spot today that included a guest from the American Psychological Association, Dr. Clinton Anderson. “There has been research around homosexuality and about changing homosexuality,” Anderson told Phillips. “And our conclusion as the American Psychological Association is that research does not indicate that it’s at all likely that such treatments will work.”
After wrapping up her interview with Dr. Anderson, Phillips took a moment to respond to the criticism of her original segment:
“And before we go to break I would like to take a moment to address many of you who emailed me about our Tuesday segment on this topic. Personally, I thought the absurd nature of the California law we discussed would speak for itself but unfortunately not everyone saw it that way.
“Richard Cohen was not the most appropriate guest to have on, but it is a decision that we made and the result of that is our continued discussion today. That is what journalism is all about and we will continue to do our best to discuss gay and lesbian issues in a fair way on this program.
“I wish that all of you knew my heart. And as a journalist with a long track record of covering gay and lesbian issues, I wish that those of you who sent me vicious emails watched my newscasts more often because if they did my guess is they would not have been so quick to send such hateful messages.
“They don’t know my record and my unswerving support for all communities in the battle for human rights, including gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals. And to make it perfectly clear, I love debating issues, it evokes passion. But if we cannot treat each other in a civil manner, even when we disagree, then we will never move forward and have a world where all people are treated with the respect that they deserve.”
GLAAD thanks Kyra Phillips and CNN for listening to community concerns and acknowledging, “Richard Cohen was not the most appropriate guest to have on.” We also appreciate the follow-up interview with Clinton Anderson of the American Psychological Association, a qualified expert in his field.
We are disturbed to hear that Phillips has received some vicious and inappropriate emails. This is unacceptable and GLAAD strongly condemns these letters. We asked our members to criticize how the story was handled, not attack Phillips personally, and we urge people to refrain from this type of troubling correspondence.
We have, however, seen many emails sent to CNN where people eloquently and passionately told their stories and made their case. To hear that others are inserting ugliness and personal attacks into this discussion is not only wrong, it actively undermines the conversation we need to be having.
We also want to acknowledge Phillips’ past reporting on LGBT issues. Her coverage of Lt. Col Victor Fehrenbach, who was dismissed from military service under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” was nominated for a 2010 GLAAD Award for Outstanding TV Journalism Segment.
Our Call to Action regarding Phillips’ coverage of Richard Cohen, and CNN’s initial missteps in addressing the issue, does not take away from Phillips’ fair, accurate and inclusive reporting in the past. We appreciate what she said today during her broadcast and look forward to working with her as a resource on future segments.