Is It Enough?

Brian Williams Comes Out On Marriage Attack Scandal

Brian Williams made a gay peace offering yesterday. And no everyone’s taking it…

The NBC newsman caused a stink two nights ago when he used the phrase “marriage is under attack,” a well known right-wing rhetoric brandished against gay marriage. The gay blogs, including ourselves, immediately began questioning whether Williams intended to spread such vile ideology or had found himself at the mercy of uncreative writers. Knowing the immense power of the gay, Williams released a statement clarifying his queer choice of words:

I was the recipient today of several emails from well-intentioned people, telling me I was being attacked in parts of the blogosphere for something I wrote and said on the air in last night’s broadcast. It was a closing piece about Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip celebrating their 60th anniversary. I noted this accomplishment, especially in this era when, as I put it, marriage seems “under attack” as an institution. My meaning? Our national divorce rate, which is currently somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. Others took it upon themselves to decide that I was somehow attacking gay marriage. The simple fact is that nothing could have been further from my mind, as many others easily understood.

In fact, one comment shared with me today came from a respected member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, who said, “It seemed to me he was talking about the sky-high heterosexual divorce rates. Marriage IS under attack — by straight people. It had nothing to do with the gay marriage movement.”

Ah, way to pull out that homo-journo friend! While we appreciate Williams’ explanation, it still seems a bit dodgy. We won’t question his thinking, but “marriage is under attack” doesn’t usually coincide with divorce data.

Jeremy Hooper of Good As You, who broke the story, may be willing to forgive Williams’ televised slip-up, but he takes issue with some of the journalist’s words:

…We do take exception with his phrasing, saying he was “being attacked in parts of the blogosphere” for the comments. This site was the very first one to post and comment on the video, and we did not “attack” — we pointed out that the phrase is hostile terminology employed by the far right, and that such probably should not be used in a mainstream news broadcast. And we didn’t take it upon ourselves to assume that he was “somehow attacking gay marriage” — we used the information that was given to ask what, exactly, he meant.

It’s very easy to attack the blogosphere as angry folks who are quick to judge. However, we take offense to that characterization, especially when talking about a situation that we still think should’ve been worded very differently.

Williams’ reaction, says Hooper, implies that we bloggers were acting “irrationally” and had created a scandal out of nothing. We agree with Hooper on this point. We’re assuming Williams, whose wedding ring can be seen quite clearly in the picture above, does not.

Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be a gay media scandal without a few words from GLAAD’s president, Neil Giuliano:

Dear Mr. Williams,

Thank you for acknowledging the concerns raised by GLAAD and a number of
online journalists today regarding your comments on yesterday’s broadcast
about marriage being “under attack.”

Your blog entry today confirms that your use of the phrase on last night’s
broadcast was not in any way intended to disparage gay couples, and that
expression is appreciated. However, the primary issue is whether a phrase
that has been used predominantly in an ugly anti-gay context can be used in
another, tangentially related context (here, marriage in a general sense)
without invoking the stereotypes that imbrue its common usage.

The phrase ”marriage under attack” — like “defense of marriage,” which you
use elsewhere in your blog entry — is a meme designed and used by far-right
anti-gay activists to scare people into opposing legal protections for gay
couples. Media professionals who talk about marriage-related issues in
their reporting should simply and factually discuss them, rather than
uncritically repeating rhetoric calculated to make people feel threatened by
and afraid of loving, committed couples.

GLAAD’s work is rooted in the fundamental understanding that words and
images matter. We expect that future NBC News reporting on marriage — both
generally and for gay couples specifically — avoids these kinds of
linguistic pitfalls.

Neil G. Giuliano

We may not always be on the same page as Neil, but his marriage meme theories ring true. Pun totally intended.