A conservative radio host walks into a gay bar…

Michael Berry

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Conservative talk radio host and former city council member Michael Berry has been implicated in a hit and run accident outside of T.C.’s show bar last month. Berry has not been charged with a crime. In Texas leaving the scene of an accident is a misdemeanor.

KPRC reports that a bouncer for the gay bar witnessed a hit and run collision on Jan. 31st. The bouncer, Tuderia Bennett, wrote down the license plate of the vehicle and later identified Berry, the owner of the vehicle, as the man he had seen driving. Since then video of Berry inside the bar has been released.

And then the blogosphere exploded…

Houston Chronicle Newswatch blog: Michael Berry accused of ramming vehicle at gay club

Perez Hilton: Um, Oops? Conservative Radio Host Accused Of Hit-And-Run After Visiting Gay Bar

Texas Observer: Homophobic Radio Host Busted at Gay Bar

Towleroad: Conservative Talk Radio Host Michael Berry Was Definitely At That Gay Bar In Houston …

The site gayhomophobe.com even added Berry to their listing of famous homophobes later caught up in gay sex scandals.

The only issue with all this schadenfreude is that, as far as I can tell, Michael Berry isn’t particularly homophobic. The radio host has criticized other right-wing personalities for their homophobia. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time listening to old episodes of Berry’s show over the last few days (a painful experience) and I’ve yet to find anything hateful towards the LGBT community (please correct me if I’ve missed something).

Controversial black-face drag character Shirley Q. Liquor is a regular guest on Berry’s program which would seem to indicate that Berry at least has no issue with drag  queens (nor, would it seem, does Berry have any issues with astoundingly racially insensitive performances that rely on the most vulgar of African-American stereotypes).

I’m not saying that Michael Berry’s good guy (he once advocating bombing a proposed mosque in lower Manhattan), but I have to question why the media in general, and the LGBT media in particular, have been so quick to paint him as a homophobe caught with his pants down.

Perhaps after decades of Sen. Larry “wide stance” Craig and Rev. George “luggage lifter” Reker it’s an easy narrative to latch on to. But it’s concerning that this story has become about Michael Berry being the sort of person who (allegedly) visits gay bars instead of being about Michael Berry being the sort of jerk who (allegedly) hits a parked car and then drives off.

A conservative radio host walks into a gay bar, walks out, gets into his car, hits another car, and drives off… and what we find shocking isn’t the crime, but that he was in a gay bar.

What a joke.

—  admin

Postcards from B.A.: The obelisk

As I reported a few weeks ago, gay Dallas radio host Rick Vanderslice headed to Buenos Aires for the balance of the year, although he continues to host his Rational Radio show, Conversations with Rick Vanderslice, via Skype every Monday thought Friday at 2 p.m. Here’s Rick’s postcard from his first few weeks in B.A.

“Here I am at the Great Obelisk in the center of B.A. It was built in the 1930s to commemorate where the Argentinian flag was hoisted for the first time. Some 10 streets converge on this site, including the 9th of July Avenue which locals claim is the widest boulevard in the world. I would not argue the point.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Rally in support of Gay Straight Alliance outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi

As many as 150 people gathered outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi on Friday to protest the school district’s decision to deny a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

Flour Bluff High School student Bianca “Nikki” Peet, 17, has been trying to launch the GSA since November.

Last week, Flour Bluff Superintendent Julia Carbajal announced that the district would bar all non-curricular clubs from meeting on campus in order to avoid allowing the GSA.

The American Civil Liberties Union responded by threatening legal action against the district, saying officials are required to allow the GSA under the First Amendment and the federal Equal Access Act.

On Friday, supporters of the GSA rallied outside the school for eight hours and presented a petition with more than 28,000 signatures to a district spokesman. A handful of anti-gay counterprotesters, led by right-wing radio host Bob Jones, gathered across the street.

At one point, according to the video report below, a pro-GSA protester tried to give a couterprotester some water. The counterprotester responded by saying he wouldn’t touch anything a gay man had, telling him to “stay away from my grandson.”

—  John Wright

With the world on his fingertip, gay Latino Dallas activist Jesse Garcia becomes a radio host

Jesse Garcia (From KNON.org)

We’ve always known the nearly universally loved Jesse Garcia was bound for stardom, although we admit we assumed it would be in politics. But for now, at least, it looks like it’ll be in, of all things, radio.

Garcia, former president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and current president of the city’s thriving gay LULAC council, will host The Jesse Garcia Show — 60 minutes of Latino news talk and entertainment — during the drive time on Thursdays, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on KNON 89.3 FM.

From the show’s website:

Your host Jesse Garcia looks forward to empowering and entertaining you. Garcia has spent the last decade making Dallas a more tolerant city. Since 2000, this community activist has championed civil rights causes, registered voters and built bridges among communities.

One of his proudest achievements was helping organize an effort to get a street named after Cesar Chavez in downtown Dallas. Today, he enjoys mentoring youth in Oak Cliff and serves on boards for nonprofits, as well as Hispanic and Gay civil rights organizations.

Garcia is originally from the Frontera, born and raised in Brownsville, Texas . He was educated in San Antonio, earning a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Our Lady of the Lake University and a master’s degree in communications arts from St. Mary’s University. For the last 15 years he has worked as a public affairs specialist for the federal government, promoting the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, Peace Corps and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both his academic and professional careers have centered on media, which have prepared him for his next role: Radio Talk Show Host.

—  John Wright

Gays join protest of Bush library groundbreaking

Rick Vanderslice

About 100 people gathered to protest the groundbreaking of the George Bush Library on the Southern Methodist University campus this morning.

Members of the LGBT community were among the organizers. Other protesters came to Dallas from around the country.

Among the protesters was Cindy Sheehan, who became the face of the anti-war movement after the death of her son Casey in Iraq in 2004.

A march began at about 9:30 a.m. at Mockingbird Station and ended on the SMU campus outside Ford Stadium near Mockingbird Lane and Airline Drive. Many were dressed in black with white masks representing soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush administration.

Five different police forces kept protesters and counter-protesters apart. The march began in Dallas, crossed into Highland Park and ended on campus in University Park. SMU campus police also were on hand.

The groundbreaking was held several blocks away and protesters were not allowed anywhere near the dignitaries, who included  the Bushes and Cheneys. Sheriff’s department officers guarded that ceremony in riot gear with shields and batons. Only pre-approved guests and media were allowed near the library site.

However, pro-Bush counter-protesters were allowed to mingle on the outskirts of the anti-Bush crowd.

Local speakers were mostly from the LGBT community.

Aaron Rathbun dressed in a graduation cap and gown and held a sign on stage that read, “Bush failed us.”

Radio host and Queer LiberAction activist Rick Vanderslice led some of the chanting and was one of the speakers. He echoed the event’s “Arrest Bush” theme.

Vanderslice said the policy institute is being built to justify the policies of the Bush administration. He said this can’t be allowed to happen and called them war criminals who should be arrested and brought to justice.

“We can get them,” he said.

“Millions of lives have been ruined because of irresponsible foreign policy,” said Charles Grand, a speaker from the Socialist Workers Party.

Grand said he was happy with the number of people attending since the protest took place during a workday.

Sheehan explained why she had traveled to Dallas from her home in California for the event.

“You can’t put a bloom on that lily,” she said. “He wasn’t a good person. He wasn’t a good president. We can’t let him rewrite history.”

Other speakers included Time magazine 2002 person of the year Colleen Rowley, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin and Col. Ann Wright, who spent 29 years in the military followed by 16 years as a diplomat and resigned her post to protest Bush administration policy.

State Rep. Lon Burnham from Tarrant County was scheduled to speak but was held up by an airline delay.

The museum and library will open in 2013. The policy center is already operating in offices in Preston Center.

Dressed as death, a number of protesters, including Time person of the year Colleen Rowley, marched to the groundbreaking but were turned back

—  David Taffet

GLAAD: Chris Krok disciplined; station to apologize for anti-gay rant against Joel Burns

Chris Krok

The other day we brought attention to a homophic rant by Dallas radio host Chris Krok of KLIF 570 AM, who ridiculed Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns’ recent “It Gets Better” speech. According to a report from GLAAD on Monday, Krok has been disciplined for the rant, and the station is working toward an on-air apology:

On behalf of Joel and the many others whose life stories intersect with his, GLAAD made a phone call this afternoon to Jeff Catlin, the operations manager for Cumulus Media Dallas, KLIF’s parent company.  The conversation was a productive one; Catlin both understands and shares our concern.  As the person who oversees KLIF, Catlin acknowledged that he has the “responsibility to be responsible” for what airs on the station.

Without going into detail, Catlin said that he spoke with Krok and that he was disciplined shortly after the segment aired.  He also pointed out that Krok has not spoken about this since then.

After speaking with GLAAD, Catlin also realizes the need to issue some sort of on-air apology.  He wants Krok (who’s out of the office until tomorrow) to be “part of the solution.”  To that end GLAAD, Catlin and Krok will meet on Wednesday morning to discuss what such a solution will look like.  We’ll be certain to let you know in advance so you can be sure to tune-in.

—  John Wright

GLAAD: Tyler station to pull anti-gay segment; Joel Burns will appear on newscasts Friday

KETK, the NBC affiliate in Tyler, has agreed to remove from its website a segment that aired Wednesday morning in which the station asked viewers whether acceptance of homosexuality will be the downfall of America, according to GLAAD. KETK has also agreed to have openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns appear on its newscasts on Friday, GLAAD said. However, the KTBB 92.1 FM radio host who was apparently behind the segment, Garth Meier, has yet to take responsibility for it.

From GLAAD:

In response to GLAAD’s outreach and community outcry, here’s what KETK plans to do:

–For starters, at GLAAD’s request, KETK has removed from their Web site the eight-minute piece that ran yesterday – the re-airing of the KTBB segment and accompanying video.

–GLAAD pitched Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns to do an interview with the station.  Burns, who has garnered significant media attention and praise for his advocacy against anti-LGBT bullying, will appear on KETK newscasts tomorrow to discuss why potentially harmful questions like Maier’s should not be asked – and certainly not broadcast over public airwaves – in the first place.  (Please note that this blog will be updated as more time-specific information becomes available about when you can see Joel on KETK.)

–In addition to Joel appearing on KETK, General Manager Dave Tillery has also responded to our request that he appear on-camera to speak on behalf of the station.  Dave realizes how important it is that the station acknowledge in front of their viewers what they’ve acknowledged to GLAAD over the phone – that a segment like Wednesday’s has no place on the airwaves of a reputable news organization.  Furthermore, Dave plans to acknowledge the potential harm that could be caused by Wednesday’s report and will commit, on behalf of the station, to being more careful in the future.

–Lastly, KETK is rethinking how they will repackage KTBB Talkback content for future newscasts.  KETK General Manager Dave Tillery shared with GLAAD that he will be meeting tomorrow with Paul Gleiser, KTBB’s owner/general manager.

GLAAD appreciates KETK’s response to our outreach.  We applaud their willingness to learn from their mistakes.  We look forward to watching tomorrow’s follow-up and to recognizing the station’s improvement in days to come.

UPDATE: The president of KTBB 92.1 FM has issued an apology of sorts:

The Talkback question that aired on KTBB Radio and was simulcast on KETK NBC 56 television in Tyler on Wednesday, October 27 was unfortunate in its wording and unfortunate in the perception that it created among a large number of thoughtful individuals. The question, “Will the acceptance of homosexuality lead to the fall of America?” is poorly worded at best and inappropriate altogether at worst. For that, we apologize.

There are many issues surrounding homosexuality that are fair game for discussion in the media and in opinion journalism. The proper role, if any, for openly gay individuals in the military, the legitimacy of same-sex marriages and the public behavior by some individuals at gay and lesbian events held outdoors in public view are among topics about which reasonable people may disagree. These and other topics surrounding homosexuality are topics that talk radio hosts and opinion journalists may legitimately pose to their respective audiences.

With that said, the way our Talkback question was posed might be seen as asking, “Do homosexuals, by their very existence, threaten to bring down America?” We believe that such a question, posed in such a manner, is likely to generate more heat than light.

I understand how those who either heard, or heard about, KTBB’s Talkback question on Wednesday might have been offended. For the offense that was taken, we sincerely apologize.

Paul L. Gleiser, President
KTBB Radio


—  John Wright

Farewell to ‘Dr. Laura’ as radio hosts calls it quits

As right-wing radio talk show host announces plans to end show, Dallas actvist looks back a decade to another protest against her

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

AGAINST THE DOCTOR’S ADVICE
AGAINST THE DOCTOR’S ADVICE | Dallas activist John Selig helped organize this protest in April 2000 outside the Channel 11 studios in Dallas which aired “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger’s television show. Thanks in large part to the protests over Schlessinger’s anti-gay comments, advertisers shied away from what turned out to be a short-lived program. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Right-wing radio host “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger announced this week that she would end her talk show when her contract runs out later this year.

The advice show host gained notoriety in the 1990s with statements that included calling gays and lesbians “biological errors” and blaming Mathew Shepard for his own murder.

Rafael McDonnell worked at KRLD at the time, and he said this week that Dallas made her career.

The Dallas talk radio station was the first to broadcast Schlessinger’s show outside Los Angeles. After its success here, McDonnell said, the program was syndicated nationwide. Dallas remained Schlessinger’s top market for years, and at her peak, she was heard on more than 450 stations. She ranked second in listeners after Rush Limbaugh.

McDonnell recalled Schlessinger’s visit to the station.

“Station employees were instructed not to look at her, not to talk to her, not to have any interaction with her,” he said, unlike with other celebrities who visited the station.

In 2000, Schlessinger was offered a TV contract. Local Dallas activists worked to keep her off local television.

Dallas activist John Selig was one of the creators of StopDrLaura.com, a website that MoveOn.org still uses in its training as a model of successful activism.

Selig laughed at the current publicity surrounding Schlessinger and said he hadn’t thought much about “the fake doctor” in years.

Schlessinger has a PhD in physiology, not in counseling, psychology or anything related to that. She claims that her advice is based on morality and is not psychological. She holds no degrees in ethics, religion or theology either.

Selig got involved in StopDrLaura after attending a protest in Los Angeles outside Paramount Studios, the producer of her TV show.

“Dr. Laura” Schlessinger

“Dr. Laura” Schlessinger

When he got back to Dallas, he organized a protest at Channel 11 that was signed to air the show that fall. He said that after the success of the Dallas protest, 35 other cities held demonstrations at their local Dr. Laura affiliates.

“Our goal was never to get her off AM radio,” Selig said.

He said AM talk radio was filled with right-wing talk shows, but their group felt that television presented a new threat, especially to LGBT teens who would take her message to heart.

“She went way overboard with us and she went way overboard again this time,” Selig said, referring to a call to Schlessinger’s radio show last week that received national attention and has led, apparently, to the end of her radio career.

In that call, an African-American woman called to talk about her white husband’s friends and family members who make racist comments in front of her.

In her answer, Schlessinger used the “N” word 11 times and advised the woman she was being too sensitive, and that if she was so sensitive about such things, she shouldn’t have married outside her own race.

When the caller became angry and tried to reprimand Schlessinger for her language, Schlessinger replied, “Don’t N-double-A-C-P me.”

Although she apologized for using the “N” word, Schlessinger never addressed the rest of her comments. Earlier this week, she announced she was leaving radio because she wanted to regain her First Amendment rights.

Selig had a different view.

“What she wants to do is to speak and not be accountable for her words,” Selig said.

John Selig
John Selig

Selig said that the current campaign to let Target know about the LGBT community’s disapproval of their political donation to a homophobic candidate is the same kind of effort he helped launch against Schlessinger in 2000.

At that time, Selig contacted a number of Schlessinger’s advertisers back then and convinced them to drop their support of her show. A number of those advertisers pulled their money from her radio program as well.

Weak advertising sales contributed to the early demise of the TV show.

Selig said he learned from StopDrLaura that when a company like Target spends money to harm the LGBT community, they need to be held accountable.

Selig said he learned from the fight against Schlessinger that there’s no use calling a company’s customer service line.
“Call media relations or investor relations,” he said. “Those numbers are always listed — and they’ll listen.”

In her announcement that she was quitting radio, Schlessinger acted bewildered at the LGBT community’s continued disdain for her.

On “Larry King Live” this week, she called committed same-sex relationships “a beautiful thing and a healthy thing.”

But in 2000, in addition to blaming Shepard for his own murder, Schlessinger said a vast majority of gay men are pedophiles. She also called gays and lesbians “sexual deviants” and said that people should keep their children away from gay relatives.

Her “biological error” comment was one she repeated on the air often.

Schlessinger, however, denied that she engaged in anti-gay speech.

“Unless I have hallucinated, I have never made an anti-gay commentary,” she said on her show.

Selig had some advice this week for the talk show host. He said Schlessinger should take some advice from the title of one of her own books: “Stop Whining.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens