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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.