UPDATE: PRI’s Warren Olney Apologizes More For Penn State / Gay Parenting Show

UPDATE (3:20 PM PST 11/14/11): To The Point host Warren Olney has issued a much better apology that reads in part:

We reported that Penn State’s former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was allowed to care for foster children even though authorities knew he was suspected of child abuse… [while] gay and lesbian couples are often prohibited from both fostering and adopting, even though they can provide loving homes… people thought that, by discussing both topics in one show, we had equated the two. We respect our listeners, and we want to respond. There is no connection between pedophilia and homosexuality, and we never intended to say or imply there is. But our failure to make that crucial distinction explicit was a serious oversight. We regret it, and we apologize.

Though GLAAD points out that the show has still not explained why they let an anti-gay activist spout false and inaccurate information on the show with no push back from Olney.

Sometimes even a respected journalist can have his head up his ass: Warren Olney, the award-winning host of the current-events show, To The Point, angered gay and gay-friendly listeners on Friday by segueing from the ongoing Penn State child-abuse scandal to a panel discussion on LGBT parenting—one that included the president of the anti-gay Family Council spewing lies about gay families. (The segment begins at the 29-minute mark.)

To The Point, which is produced by Los Angeles NPR affiliate KCRW and syndicated to dozens of major markets nationwide, did ultimately try put LGBT parenting in a positive light. John Ireland, the founder of the Raise a Child Campaign, was invited to discuss the importance of expanding the pool of qualified foster-care and adoptive parents.

But as Gawker’s Seth Abromovitch rightly assesses, using the Penn State story as springboard for talking about the subject in the first place is pretty skeevy:

Right off the bat, this topic made me feel incredibly uneasy, for obvious reasons. Linking pedophilia to homosexuality is a tried-and-true tactic of bigots, just one example in a long line of history’s unliked minorities being stereotyped as representing a threat to the majority’s most vulnerable members.

Olney (above) might’ve had his heart in the right place, but it feels like he’s perhaps several steps behind his enlightened listeners.

Far worse, though, is that in an attempt to generate debate, Olney or his producers invited Jerry Cox (left), head of the Family Council, to present the “other side” of the gay-parent issue. Given a mike and an audience, Cox started in with his group’s line of bigoted misinformaton:

“Our position is that if the state is going to take children into custody, it ought to put children in the best homes possible… What does the research and common sense show? You’re going to put them in a home with a loving mother and father.”

Except the research doesn’t show that at all. As GLAAD points out, according to the American Psychological Association:

“There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of sexual orientation. On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.”

Cox wasn’t done spewing his hate, though. He went on to say:

“I find it interesting that we talk about the Penn State situation, and then when we talk about people who claim to have these rights to adopt or foster; in both cases, the children’s rights get put in second place. If you give the rights to the adults, the children will be compromised.”

Gee, even a douchebag like Cox can see putting these two topics on the same episode is drawing an implicit link between them.

After speaking with GLAAD, Olney issued a tepid apology:

“We apologize for any confusion about today’s To the Point, which dealt with both the Penn State child-sex scandal and the issue of same-sex couples as foster or adoptive parents.

The connection we intended to make was this: a suspected pedophile backed by a powerful institution was allowed to have foster children, while same-sex couples, who can provide loving families, are often denied that opportunity.  We’ll air listener comments and further discussion on Monday’s program.”

Translation: “We’re sorry you feel that way.”

Ugh, our ex used to pull that crap all the time.

While the show has opened up an online discussion on the subject, Olney doesn’t address the fact that he let Cox’s lies go unchallenged. We know Cox is full of crap, but some radio listeners aren’t as plugged in.

“Attempting to link these two completely unrelated issues isn’t just bad journalism, it’s dangerous,” said GLAAD prez Mike Thompson. “The perpetuation of these myths damages the hundreds of thousands of healthy children being raised by loving gay and lesbian couples today.”

Public Radio International, which co-produces the show, reached out to GLAAD over the weekend and explained that while it doesn’t have control over the show’s content, “we [have begun] having discussions with the editorial staff of To the Point, and those discussions will continue.”

It’ll be very interesting to see how today’s episode pans out. Feel free to call in and give your two-cents’ worth.


CLARIFICATION: While KCRW is an NPR affiliate, To The Point is not produced by NPR.

Feature image via Marc Goldstein

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  • christopher di spirito

    Sounds like NPR is trying to gain some street cred with the radical right and protect what is left of the Federal funding which has been under attack the past decade.

  • the crustybastard

    NPR, like most media, reliably allows anti-gay hate groups to broadcast their misinformation and junk science as if this somehow presents the reasonable, rational “balance” against any neutral or pro-gay public policy position. Naturally, they wouldn’t dream of seeking out the opinions of other hate groups in public policy issues respecting other minorities.

    They also prefer to call bigots “controversial” (as if there’s some legitimate controversy arising from an idiot’s exercise of his/her prejudice) rather than “provocative,” “fringe” or “extremist,” because politeness and feigned neutrality is far more important than accuracy. The effect is to mainstream antigay extremists to low-information listeners who don’t know who the players in the debate actually are.

    That’s deliberate misrepresentation — a cardinal sin in journalism.

    I expect that shit from FOX and Drudge. I expect better of NPR. I about can’t listen to them anymore.

  • christopher di spirito

    @the crustybastard: Why would you “expect better of NPR”?

    NPR, more than FOX Noise or even the Washington Times, pushed Bush’s Iraq war down our throats 24/7 years after year, even creating special Iraq-centric radio programs such as “Women in Iraq” and “The Iraqi Journal.” NPR is heavily biased and leans to the right.

  • xander

    I wouldn’t be surprised now if NPR hosted a show where ‘experts’ debated whether the Earth is round(ish) or flat!

    The comment page on the NPR/ PRI page has been about 90% critical of the show’s coverage — and rightly so.

    The apology doesn’t really make the grade.

  • Jim Hlavac

    Whether NPR leans left or right is immaterial — what matters is that it gets funding from the government as state-supported media — therefore it has a vested interest in pleasing the left or right when it is in office — and not the taxpayers who are forced to fund it, left and right, and who disagree with the left or right leaning programing. If it has a good product, it will survive on its audience and its advertisers — just like every single other media outlet. Get them off the public dime; stop the corporate welfare.

    As for the rest of our “friends” in the media — hahaha! They (ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, HLN, CNN, FOX, etc) all give far more time to the No Gays! movement and its FRC, AFA, NOM affiliates then they ever give to gay folks. And we are always put on the defensive in any such match up that might occur — for the question in the “debate” is over whether we should be eliminated from society or allowed a shred of decency just the way we are.

  • Chase

    As the pedophile scandal continues to unravel at Penn State University, it is important to recognize other interesting connections in this story:

    Wendell Courtney: Courtney represented both Penn State University and “The Second Mile” charity founded by indicted pedophile Gerald Sandusky.

    “According to the Grand Jury presentment, Courtney was at the least made aware of the allegations against Jerry Sandusky that were leveled in 1998. ”Schultz testified that the 1998 incident was reviewed by the University Police and “the child protection agency” with the blessing of then-University counsel Wendell Courtney,” it reads.

    “Courtney was then and remains counsel for The Second Mile.” (Source)

    The 1998 accusations, which involved Sandusky showering nude with a 10 year old male at Penn State, were apparently covered up and not prosecuted. Ray Gricar did not prosecute the accusations, in-spite of witnessing Jerry Sandusky confess to them. Gricar disappeared in 2005, along with the hard drive from his computer, and has since been declared dead.

    Courtney, being aware of such actions, and representing both Penn State and The Second Mile, which claims to have helped over 100,000 youth, finding all of this OK is another scandal in and of itself. At the very least, he had the responsibility to advise Penn State and the Second Mile to terminate their relationship with Sandusky, or face exposure from numerous civil lawsuits from the future victims of a confessed pedophile!

  • chuck

    I had a phone call from my local NPR affiliate yesterday. I explained to them that as they swing to the right more and more each month…my contribution is being decreased similarly.
    Their idea of balance is to have one guest who has science as proof…then the other side is brought in with personal opinions and no proof. The moderator just sits there and never demands that the quack provide proof…rather if they say anything…they just say ‘that’s interesting’. I wouldn’t mind if they said they were Fox News…but to ask me to help pay for the drivel?!?

  • Clarknt67

    The ideal target of rage is NOT NPR.

    The Producer of the show is Public Radio International. They are a separate corporation, actually a competitor to NPR.

    “To The Point” can be heard on NPR owned and operated stations, and as such it might be ok to complain about the content they are serving up.

    But it isn’t fair to hold NPR responsible for content they don’t produce.

    I’m all for giving KCRW, @PRI and Olney a righteous piece of our mind, FYI. You can find them all on Facebook.

  • DavyJones

    @Jim Hlavac: The point of ‘Public Radio’ is that is doesn’t have to be supported by advertisers, and therefore is not beholden to them to portray stories in a certain light (or else not cover a story at all) which is a pretty common occurrence in standard media outlets. Also, since it means they don’t constantly have to be focusing on their ‘ratings’ meaning they often provide stories that are ignored by other media outlets because they are not ‘popular’ enough.

    NPR certainly does not lean to the right, some commentators (and hosts, and producers) have a discernibly left-ward lean; however on the whole they provide a much more balanced view of the news than any of the networks, and unlike the networks they also will be very frank about when viewers disagree with them. When they say: “We’ll air listener comments and further discussion on Monday’s program.” What they mean is, at the end of the show they will directly quote someone’s email and it will read very much like GLAAD’s quote. Or since this particular story has generated lots of responses, they may even devote a segment to it.

    His apology so far might be rather tepid, but they will address it on the show, and they’ll undoubtedly let it be known that many of their viewers find the content of that segment offensive and unprofessional.

    NPR has done many, [i]many[/i] LGBT positive stories on a large variety of issues on many of their shows; they’re certainly not an enemy to the community.

    @christopher di spirito: How can it be a ‘right bias’ to have shows about a country we are attacking. Regardless of if you agree with the war or not, it happened, and knowing more about the people our soldiers are over there with can do no harm. In fact many of the stories focused on the civilians and how their lives have been affected by the war (including the many negative effects). It certainly did not serve as right wing propaganda to anyone who listens to the stations regularly.

  • christopher di spirito

    NPR’s firing of Juan Williams and Lisa Simeone for exercising their First Amendment right of free speech is another example of their bias.

    It’s no accident these dual firings happened while Obama was in the White House.

    Had Juan Williams said what he said when Bush was president, I’m sure NPR would’ve given Williams a raise.

    Now we have this douchebag Olney pushing the tired, hackneyed, and untrue assertion that LGBT parents are undesirable and unhealthy. Old Man needs to check the calendar: it’s 2011, and not 1911.

  • DavyJones

    @christopher di spirito: Federal money provides a small fraction of NPRs budget*. Stop spouting ‘facts’ when you have no idea what you are talking about, you look foolish.


  • xander

    @Clarknt67 : Thank you for clarifying the difference between PRI and NPR.
    Where the piece went astray was the set up of the story and the ‘linkage’ between adoption and the Penn State case.

    If Olney’s strategy was to allow the anti-lgb adoption guy from Family Council enough airspace to ‘hang himself’ with his words, then it failed. As soon as the FC rep started talking about research, he ought to have been asked for citations or references.

  • DavyJones

    @xander: The link between the two stories, which is actually made while Onley is talking to a gay man, Mr. Ireland, about what Mr. Ireland terms ‘Lazy Stereotyping’. He (Ireland) notes that both in the Jerry Sandusky case and in many gay and lesbian adoptions there is often this ‘lazy stereotyping’, though in obviously different ways. Which he discusses. He notes that in Mr. Sandusky’s case; because he was a macho, authoritative, apparently good role model for kids, the proper due diligence was not done to ensure he was actually a good person to trust with children. On the other hand, with gays and lesbians, because of similar stereotyping; they are often the target of undue diligence where people are looking for any minute reason not to trust them, based on their own biases.

    This all takes place before Mr. Cox is even brought into the conversation, and while you may argue that his ‘facts’ shouldn’t even be given air time. The unfortunate truth is, many people already think as he does; and the only way to change their minds is to have their opinions and ‘facts’ openly discussed and challenged. If you ignore them in hopes that they will go away, they’ll simply keep on believing their ‘facts’ and assume the reason you won’t debate them is because you cannot prove them wrong.

  • stevoj

    the “problem” with NPR is that it prides itself in being literally one of the few unbiased forms of media/journalism today. they do this by bringing counterparts to every argument (no matter how disputed those counter claims are). the point that Mike Thompson brings up is that by promoting these discussions they position pedophilia as the counter argument to same-sex households

    whatever professional intentions they have are then immediately thrown out of the window. fostering such arguments is dangerous and extremely negligent

  • Roman Polanski

    This whole story makes me sick and disgusted as I sit and watch this in my comfy villa in the French Alps. Having sex with underage boys is despicable and unnatural compared to having sex with underage girls because…..well, it just is.

    I hope they hang that homo bastard!

  • Mr M

    As a regular listener of the show I heard this program when it aired live and had no objection to it. Olney and To The Point regularly invoke a current headline to bring up a less-time sensitive topical discussion. TTP is a show targeted to thinking listeners who can handle a nuanced debate, often beyond a polemic setup. For those balking at the inclusion of Cox… well, yeah… that guy’s an idiot and an asshole. I disagree with GLAAD’s assessment; Olney did question Cox several times with the intention of clarifying his (hateful) statements.

    The show wasn’t Cox’s first platform and it won’t be his last. In discussing a law (which this show was doing), it’s important to have a backer of said law to explain its support. Unlike television or more bombastic news/info programs, TTP relies on a listenership that can analyze a guest’s statements on their own, leaving the moderator, Olney, to facilitate discussion, ask pertinent questions, and spur the audience to think.

    The Penn State connection was clunky and unfortunate, and hearing Cox was infuriating. But if you are listening to To The Point, it’s assumed you don’t need a media council and a blog czar to explain to you why that is.

  • B

    Backing up Mr. M

    As someone who listens to the show regularly and heard this show in its entirety I’m going to have call bullshit on calling Olney and TTP bigoted or bigot-enabling. NPR demands intelligent listeners who understand that debate means letting people you loathe say their piece because that’s the best way to understand and debate them. Cox dug his own bigoted grave on the show, and Olney’s questions were on target.

    If queers are going to get the rights we deserve we can’t run away from people conflating pedophilia and homosexuality, we have to fight it with facts and reasoned debate. If you were offended by Olney’s decision to try and wade through this controversial and important topic I’m not sure you’re strong enough to really fight for queer rights.

  • B

    Looks like there is now someone else using “B” as a name (just in case anyone
    confuses the two of us when looking at multiple threads).

  • Alt B

    Sorry Original B, I was reading comments, not names…

  • chuck

    Many so-called ‘liberal media’ feel that they always have to someone over on the ‘other side’ (even if they are wacko) to balance every news discussion. If someone is Jewish and elected as a small town mayor…it seems that the station has to have a ‘holocaust denier’ on to present ‘the other side’. And the moderator either is more ignorant than the guests or is simply a coward (or both).

  • B

    No. 20 · Alt B wrote, “Sorry Original B, I was reading comments, not names…”

    No problem – just wanted to make sure that people didn’t blame you for what I said or vice versa. I hadn’t posted a comment for this article, but had on a number of other ones.

  • kawneekwa

    So why Santorum make sure that pedofile git the Congressional medal. Dat’s what I want to no! Why Sanduki get the award from Congress? I no dat aint right. Follow dat money while you is at it.

Comments are closed.