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Religious Tolerance logo

Dr. Laura Schlessinger and homosexuality:

Part 3: Years 2000-2001:
Conflict between Dr. Laura and some in the LGBT
community as her TV program was broadcast.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Friction between the LGBT community and Dr. Laura's stance on human sexuality during the broadcasts of her TV show:

  • 2000-SEP-11: The TV program premiered.

  • 2000-SEP-21: In light of criticism about TV programming generally, a panel of TV network executives was asked if there were programs on television they didn't feel they could defend. Garth Ancier, president of NBC's entertainment unit, said: 

    "I'm not embarrassed about anything on television, with the exception of 'Dr. Laura,' "

  • 2000-SEP-22: Dr. Laura's TV program had received very poor ratings. Paramount had difficulty attracting national sponsors to the show, partly because of a campaign led by some LGBT-rights groups. The latter:

    "... objected to Schlessinger being given a TV forum because of her comments regarding homosexuality, which she has termed 'deviant' and 'a biological error.' " 1

LA Times reported on SEP-22 that production of the TV program had been stopped: 2

"...there was speculation inside Paramount, a division of Viacom, that the company will take advantage of the time off to 'retool' the show or revise its format."

  • 2000-SEP-26: According to Maranatha Christian News Service, Dr. Laura's TV program attracted only 1.7% of American households with TV sets. This compares to 5.4% for the "Oprah Winfrey" show, and 4.6% for "Live with Regis." They said that:

    "Paramount spokesperson Daniella Cracknell told Reuters the hiatus is normal and that the show was preparing for the ratings sweeps. She said it would be back in production on September 27." 3 

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  • 2000-OCT-13: According to ReligionToday and PlanetOut: Dr. Laura apologized for the second time in recent months to the LGBT community. She is an Orthodox Jew, and the Jewish High Holy Days had recently concluded. Dr. Laura took out a full-page ad in Daily Variety titled "A Heartfelt Message From Dr. Laura Schlessinger" It read, in part, that she deeply regrets

    "... the hurt this situation has caused the gay and lesbian community."

    Earlier, in March, she had said that

    "Some of the words I've used have hurt some people, and I am sorry for that."

She admitted that:

"While I express my opinions from the perspective of an Orthodox Jew and a staunch defender of the traditional family, in talking about gays and lesbians some of my words were poorly chosen. Many people perceive them as hate speech. This fact has been personally and professionally devastating to me as well as to many others. Ugly words have been relentlessly repeated and distorted for far too long."

Joan Garry of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation commented:

"In a paid advertisement in the October 11 edition of Daily Variety, Laura Schlessinger once again blames others for the impact of her rhetoric, refusing to take responsibility for her precisely chosen, scientifically inaccurate descriptions of gay and lesbian lives. Schlessinger's tepid assertion that her anti-gay words were 'poorly chosen' represents another blow to her waning credibility. The notion that Schlessinger's words have somehow been 'distorted' is absurd. GLAAD has always offered Schlessinger's words verbatim and in full context. And more disturbingly, nowhere in her statement does Schlessinger say that she will stop using her ugly words to describe gays and lesbians. Schlessinger has demonstrated time and again that she refuses to be held accountable for what she says publicly. The anger Schlessinger caused by her words is too great and too profound to simply go away after a qualified admission of some guilt. Laura Schlessinger's cat-and-mouse game of words has gone on too long. Our community deserves better and awaits genuine words backed up by authentic actions."

PlanetOut News Staff commented:

"Moved by the atonement holiday the talk host took out an ad to say she's sorry for her anti-gay statements, but many think she has an apology deficit disorder." 4

Deborah Levinson of About.com commented:

"This [ad] is merely an 'I've-been-misunderstood- but-I'm-just-being-religious-anyway -so-won't-you-please-stop-picking-on-me- you're-not-only-hurting-my-feelings -but-you're-hurting-my-ratings' whine." 5

  • 2000-NOV-13: Show is downgraded: Gladd Lines commented:

    "Since its Sept. 11 premiere, Dr. Laura had occupied high-profile timeslots between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. across the country. However, following nine weeks of scathing reviews, anemic ratings and fleeing advertisers, nine of the top ten (and 12 of the top 25) stations carrying Dr. Laura have downgraded Schlessinger to late-night timeslots, usually between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Among the markets to downgrade Dr. Laura are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis, Orlando and Austin." 6

  • 2000-DEC-7: Show is downgraded further: During 2000-NOV, 13 CBS stations dropped Dr Laura. The Seattle, WA station switched the program from 3 PM to 2 AM. 7

  • 2001-MAR-30: Her TV show was cancelled: Dr. Schlessinger released a statement confirming that the last episode of her TV show had been taped on the previous day. The movement to have Dr. Laura taken off TV was spearheaded by StopDrLaura.com. Its co-founder, Joel Lawson, said:

    "We generated a lot of press about her worst statements, and advertisers didn't want to read about themselves in the same sentence. The web site fueled protests; the protests fueled media coverage; and the coverage fueled more interest in the web site. We hit PR nirvana." 8

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2000-MAY: Reactions in Canada to Dr. Laura's TV show:

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) is a voluntary organization with members from about 450 Canadian TV and radio stations. They decided on 2000-MAY-17 that Dr. Laura Schlessinger's:

"... unremittingly heavy-handed and unambiguously negative characterization"

of gays and lesbians violates Canadian broadcasting codes on human rights.

They described her comments as "abusively discriminatory." They expressed concern that it might motivate unstable individuals to commit violence against gays and lesbians. A CBSC spokesperson commented:

"This [ruling] has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with comments that are made on an identifiable minority. It could be an identifiable minority by reason of the color of their skin; it could be by reason of their religion; it could be by reason of their gender. In this case it was by reason of their sexual orientation."

Their ruling mentioned that Dr. Laura had characterized the homosexual behavior as "abnormal," "aberrant," "deviant," "disordered," "dysfunctional," and "an error." It stated that:

"The sexual practices of gays and lesbians are as much a part of their being as the color of one's skin or the gender, religion, age or ethnicity of an individual. To use such brutal language as she does about such an essential characteristic flies in the face of Canadian provisions relating to human rights."

In practice, the only significant result of this ruling is that member stations were required to describe the CBSC ruling on air, during prime-time hours. No censorship of Dr. Laura's program was imposed.

However, at least one U.S. conservative Christian group, the Conservative News Service, regarded the Canadian ruling as a form of censorship. Michael Johnston, spokesman for Kerusso Ministries, said:

"What's important about this from the perspective of Americans is that this is the future for America. ...The kind of policies, particularly as they relate to non-discrimination policies, that homosexual activists are pushing and which are becoming increasingly acceptable in the eyes of the public, are taking us down this road to where anyone who disagrees is going to be censored from the public airways. ... The key evidence [about whether homosexual behavior is innate or learned] is to be found in some form of objective truth. And, since the founding of this country, there has been a consensus that there was an objective truth on which to base morality, on which to base public policy, and that was the Judeo-Christian understanding of human beings and of God. It is because we have jettisoned as a people that consensus that leads to this different position-taking based on opinion." 9

A brief note in the Toronto Star on 2000-OCT-5 indicated that the Canadian TV stations which had carried Dr. Laura decided to drop the show because of its low ratings.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Brian Lowry, "'Dr. Laura' halts TV production for one week," LA Times, at: http://www.calendarlive.com/
  2. Norman Solomon, "Dr. Laura's abuse of power: The doctor as bully," Media Beat, at: http://www.tompaine.com/
  3. "After two weeks, Doctor Laura TV production stalls," at: http://www.mcjonline.com/
  4. "'Dr. Laura's' Yom Kippur Apology," PlanetOut News & Politics, at: http://www.planetout.com/
  5. Deborah Levinson, "Two apologies (one recanted) do not repentance make," at: http://www.rslevinson.com/
  6. "Dr. Laura loses prime timeslots in half the nation's top 25 media markets," Gladd Lines, 2000-NOV-13, at: http://www.glaad.org/
  7. "Dr. Laura downgrades gain momentum," Gladd Laura Watch, 2000-DEC-1, at: http://www.glaad.org/org/
  8. "Dr. Laura TV Show Cancelled by Paramount: 'Victory!' Says StopDrLaura.com," GayWired.com at: http://www.gaywired.com/
  9. "Canada sides with homosexuals against Dr. Laura," Conservative News Service, 2000-MAY-17. Available at: http://www.mcjonline.com/

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Copyright © 2000 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAR-14
Latest update: 2015-APR-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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