New York Daily News
March 13, 2000
Keep Dr. Laura Off Television
By JOHN ARAVOSIS
When Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker complained that New York was filled with immigrants who don't even speak English, he got suspended. When Jimmy the Greek said blacks were biologically different, he got fired by CBS. But when talk radio's Dr. Laura says gays are "biological errors," she gets a TV show.
This fall, Paramount television plans to launch a show for Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Schlessinger's combative style often provokes controversy. But with her claims that gays and lesbians are "biological errors" and prone to pedophilia, she has gone too far. Paramount is supporting prejudice.
Look at the people who have lined up against her. David Goldman of HateWatch.org says she "preaches bigotry." Goldman knows a thing or two about bigots. Extremists have targeted him for death more than once.
Nationally recognized children's groups such as the Child Welfare League of America and the Horizons Foundation warn that Dr. Laura's comments are "harmful to our children." They note that gay kids are three to seven times more likely to kill themselves and four times more likely to be threatened with a weapon in school than straight kids.
Educational institutions such as the Washington-based Florence Fund label Dr. Laura's so-called advice "misinformation." And the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association debunk many of her unscientific "studies," which are churned out by lobbying groups such as the Family Research Council and have little basis in fact.
But in America, isn't everyone allowed to speak his or her mind, even if wrong or extreme? Sure, but Dr. Laura already reaches 20 million listeners a day through her radio show — she has all the free speech she can handle.
And in any case, there's no constitutional right to a TV show, even for her.
Confronted with thousands of e-mails, phone calls and faxes protesting the planned TV show, Paramount executives say they "respect and believe in Dr. Laura's right to have and express her own point of view."
This smacks of a double standard. One doubts Paramount would have the same respect for, say, "The David Duke Show." And where was this all-important right to free expression two years ago, when Paramount canceled "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer" after the black community called it racist?
The bottom line is that Paramount is selling free speech to the highest bidder. And for what? Dr. Laura is popular not because she's a psychiatrist (in fact, she's not), but because she's confrontational. She gets big ratings because she yells at people. Paramount is hiding behind a free-speech smoke screen and laughing all the way to the bank.
My mother immigrated to New York 60 years ago, fleeing the Nazi invasion of Greece. Becoming an American was difficult, and my family faced its share of prejudice. But in time, people realized that along with our Catholic, Jewish, Italian and Irish neighbors, we Greeks were hardworking folks simply trying to live the American dream.
But for many gays and lesbians, the American dream is still just that — a dream.
This is America, and everyone deserves a fair shake. Dr. Laura Schlessinger has proved time and again that she just isn't willing to treat gays fairly. And now Paramount is adding insult to injury.
Paramount and its parent, New York-based Viacom, still have a chance to do the right thing. Isn't TV bad enough already? Do we really need a show that teaches our kids that some people are inferior to others?
That kind of programming isn't just bad television, it's un-American.
(Aravosis is a spokesman for StopDrLaura.com.)
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