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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