CNN Promotes Gay Grandson of Oral Roberts and His Tour of 'Conservative Towns'

Once again, CNN aired a coming-out story that could have doubled as a promotional piece for the GLBT community. Anchor Randi Kaye interviewed the openly-gay grandson of televangelist Oral Roberts on Thursday afternoon and she let him explain how he wanted to change conservatives' minds by giving them a "new visual" of gay couples.

Of course, one can wonder if CNN would have interviewed Roberts's grandson after he served two tours in Afghanistan, or after he did mission work in Sudanese villages devastated by violence. But even though her job as a news anchor is to be objective, Kaye admitted to being "really moved" by Randy Roberts Potts' story in a men's magazine, and she beamed when she asked him about his "upcoming marriage."

CNN text touted how Potts' project "The Gay Agenda" would be airing "in conservative communities across the nation." And when Kaye teed Potts up to talk about "The Gay Agenda," he first admonished conservatives.

"[O]ne thing that a lot of people in conservative communities have is a visual of gay life that I think is a little skewed," he asserted. "And hopefully when we leave each town, there will be a new visual of what it means to be gay which is what it means to be human."

So according to Potts, conservatives are wrong on gay marriage and his goal is to change their minds. And CNN gave him the air time to do exactly that.

Potts even claimed that his televangelist grandfather might take up the cause of gay rights if he were living today. "And I really think that if he were still around and in his prime, this might be a cause that he would take up," he insisted.

A transcript of the interview, which aired on January 26 at 1:08 p.m. EST, is as follows:

RANDI KAYE: For years, my next guest was running away, running away from his identity, running away from his sexuality, running away from his family name. But that was then and this is now. Meet Randy Roberts Potts, the grandson of one of the nation's most popular televangelists, the late Oral Roberts -- the gay grandson of Oral Roberts.

Potts just opened up to Details magazine in a fascinating look at his life both then and now. He joins me now from Dallas to talk about this. Randy, thank you so much for being here, nice to have you on the show.

Let's talk about this. I read that article in details and was really moved by your story. You've known actually that you were gay for many years but only in the last few years have you really gone public and it pretty much it all started with this "It Gets Better" video. So first, tell me about the video and why you felt so compelled to make it.

RANDY ROBERTS POTTS, writer, public speaker: Yeah. Well, about a year and a half ago, there were a lot of news reports about young gay kids killing themselves, and it really started to weigh me down. And in response to that, Dan Savage started the "It Gets Better" project.

And watching those videos, I think I cried through the first 10 or 20 of them, I just was bawling my eyes out. And I kept thinking, you know, what if I had seen one of these when I was a teenager, or what if my uncle had seen one of these. And so, I felt like it was time to come out of the closet, not just as a gay man but as a member of the Roberts family and subsequently made an "It Gets Better" video dedicated to my uncle who was also gay but who killed himself when he was in his late 30s.

KAYE: Yeah, I want to talk about that more with you in just a moment. But your grandfather, let's talk about him, because he actually knew you were gay, right? And tell me what happened the last time you saw him. What did he say to you?

ROBERTS POTTS: Well, it was really -- you know, he knew I was gay. But the last time I saw him, it was about six months before he passed. I took my children out to L.A. to go to Disney Land, and we went to see him for a couple hours, and it was really just a grandfather, grandson visit. We just talked for a couple hours, not about anything, you know, deep or life changing. But it was just a really friendly, warm visit. And you know, he never saw fit to bring up the fact that I was gay. And that to me was just really comforting. It was like, we didn't have to talk about it, but he was loving and treated me like a grandson.

KAYE: I know that you were married at 20 and then you had this moment years after that, af – you were married still and you had three children. And you had this moment in the kitchen where you finally said it out loud. What was that moment like?

ROBERTS POTTS: It was one of the most amazing moments of my life. It – I had known since I was, you know, five or six years old that I was attracted to men, but I had always been told it was wrong and I really ran from the label gay. I did not want to be gay. I had heard horror stories about what being gay meant. And so, I did everything I could to not be gay. And finally using that word openly with myself, even though I was alone it, it was like -- it was like stepping into my own skin for the first time. It was -- it was the most liberating, wonderful feeling and it's probably the most amazing moment of my life, or one of them, beyond having my three children.

KAYE: And how did your mother treat you after that? I understand she had some pretty strong words at one point.

ROBERTS POTTS: It's been – I guess I would call it an ongoing discussion. My mother does say she loves me, but she always -- the few times we've spoken since, she always makes sure to remind me that homosexuality leads to death and that the Bible condemns it. So, I think you could call it a tense relationship at best.

KAYE: And tell me about this project. You're traveling around the country and the project is called "The Gay Agenda." Tell me about the concept behind it, and what you are hoping to accomplish.

ROBERTS POTTS: Yes, well, one thing that a lot of people in conservative communities have is a visual of gay life that I think is a little skewed. When a lot of people in conservative towns think of a gay couple, they jump immediately to sex or something like that.

And they don't think of a couple, you know, watching television or, you know, having friends over for dinner or making coffee. And so, my project is going to be taken through the Bible Belt and all we will do is simply exactly what I described, just domestic activities that any couple does. And hopefully when we leave each town, there will be a new visual of what it means to be gay which is what it means to be human, to just enjoy each other's company in your home.

KAYE: And with "The Gay Agenda," are you, in a way, trying to undo your grandfather's agenda of some sort?

ROBERTS POTTS: I think – you know, there are wonderful things he did. He actually – he doesn't get a lot of credit for this, but he was a leader in civil rights. His television programming was beamed mostly into the south, and in the 70s, he had a mixed-race choir which for that time was very unusual. He was a pioneer of sorts in that way. And I really think that if he were still around and in his prime, this might be a cause that he would take up. I know that he had a lot of fear about homosexuality, but I'm not so sure that he wouldn't have, perhaps, been more accepting if he were younger.

KAYE: And before I let you go, I want to ask you about your upcoming marriage.

ROBERTS POTTS: Yeah, I'm excited. My fiance and I will be getting in May – married in May and, you know, in front of family and friends. And we're just really, really – I couldn't be – I've waited I think, for this for my whole life, in some sense.

KAYE: Randy Roberts Potts, great to have you on the show. Thank you for coming on. And we will talk with you soon, I hope.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014