ABC's Prank News Show Hunts for Secret, Anti-Gay Bigotry in a NJ Diner
ABC's undercover news show, What Would You Do, on Friday continued to search for examples of bigotry across America. Anchor John Quinones narrated a segment featuring two men pretending to be gay military veterans displaying affection in a New Jersey restaurant.
As cameras rolled, Quinones explained the set-up: "They're holding hands, stroking each other's hair and caressing each other's legs...So what will happen if we throw in our actor Vince, posing as an irritated diner, who's had enough of this PDA?"
An actor, "Vince," interrupted the faux soldiers and complained, "Excuse me. We appreciate your service to the country and everything, but you should respect the uniform a little bit more than that."
Many patrons ignored the two, prompting ABC's sting operation to try harder to provoke bigotry. Quinones announced, "Even with that bit of gossip, the other diners don't seem to notice. But then, here comes Vince again."
Later, when some patrons do complain, the host lectured, "In December 2010, an ABC News poll found that 77 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. But in our diner, there are plenty of people against it."
This program, airing as an edition of Primetime Live, debuted only a month after Quinones took his show to Arizona to find racism related to that state's new immigration law.
It's odd for a news organization to repeatedly air a program which essentially plays out like an episode of Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd. It also doesn't leave ABC much room to criticize conservative sting operations.
A partial transcript of the March 4 segment, which aired at 9pm EST, follows:
JOHN QUINONES: Don't ask, don't tell. That's what gay and lesbian service members were told for 17 years. It was a policy that many Americans felt was unfair and had to go. And in late 2010, Don't Ask, Don't Tell was repealed by President Obama.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is done.
QUINONES: Though the repeal has yet to take effect, the President's decision ignited a firestorm of controversy.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: We are doing great damage.
QUINONES: So what would you do if you saw this in public?
ACTOR (MALE): I mean, how is it over there?
SECOND ACTOR: Good. I mean, it's rough, you know, but it's getting better.
QUINONES: A gay couple in military uniform becoming affectionate while sharing a meal. We bring our hidden cameras to the Colonial Diner in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Our two actors in Army fatigues pose as a gay couple reuniting after a long tour of duty. They're holding hands, stroking each other's hair and caressing each other's legs. It's all affection any soldier, gay or straight, isn't supposed to show. So what will happen if we throw in our actor Vince, posing as an irritated diner, who's had enough of this PDA?
VINCE AUGUST (ACTOR): Excuse me. We appreciate your service to the country and everything, but you should respect the uniform a little bit more than that.
FIRST ACTOR (MALE): Excuse me?
QUINONES: Immediately, these two diners are curious about what Vince has to say.
AUGUST:And I understand the whole thing, but respect the uniform.
SECOND ACTOR: Respect? I don't understand what you're saying.
AUGUST: You know, tone it down.
SECOND ACTOR: Tone what down?
AUGUST: The whole thing.
QUINONES: The couple can't seem to believe what they're hearing.
AUGUST: Guys, tone it down, you know.
QUINONES: But our soldier doesn't wanna tone anything down.
SECOND ACTOR: I haven't seen my partner in seven months, and you're telling me that.
CLAIRE DEMETROULES (DINER): I wouldn't worry about it.
EMMANUEL DEMETROULES (DINER): Don't go there. It's inappropriate.
CLAIRE DEMETROULES: Yeah.
AUGUST: I don't think so.
FIRST ACTOR: I think you need to walk away.
QUINONES: Vince doesn't walk away on his own, but he's about to get a little help.
EMMANUEL DEMETROULES: Hey dude, take a hike. Really. No, seriously. I'm gonna ask you to leave. That's being disrespectful.
AUGUST: Okay. Well...
DEMETROULES: All right? I'm gonna ask you to leave.
AUGUST: I think that's wrong.
EMMANUEL DEMETROULES: All right?
AUGUST: I'm allowed to say it.
EMMANUEL DEMETROULES: It's disrespectful.
AUGUST: It's wrong. They should have more respect.
EMMANUEL DEMETROULES: Get out.
QUINONES: Once again, our happy couple starts to get touchy-feely.
FIRST ACTOR: I feel like it's been forever.
SECOND ACTOR: It's been forever, what, seven months now?
FIRST ACTOR: Yeah, feels like seven years.
QUINONES: This man seems to be doing everything he can to ignore what's happening just a bar stool away. So we send in our waitress, also an actor, to see if she can pry into the soldiers' personal lives.
TRACI HOVEL (ACTRESS): So you guys were in the military together? Or-
FIRST ACTOR: Well, we met at Fort Hood.
SECOND ACTOR: Basic training. But then, Iraq, Afghanistan.
QUINONES: Even with that bit of gossip, the other diners don't seem to notice. But then, here comes Vince again.
AUGUST: : Guys, not that we don't appreciate the service, 'cause we do, but you should tone it down a little bit.
FIRST ACTOR: What? Tone what down?
AUGUST: The relationship part, you know, you're in uniform, respect the uniform.
QUINONES: As our soldier stands up to Vince face to face, this man looks like he wants to say something.
SECOND ACTOR: So you're telling me that it's okay for me to take a bullet for your rights, but you wanna deny me my rights?
AUGUST: Respect the uniform. That's all I'm saying.
SECOND ACTOR: I am respecting the uniform.
AUGUST: I don't think you are.
QUINONES: And with that, the diner can't bite his tongue any longer.
BILL (VIETNAM WAR VETERAN): Why don't you just keep going?
AUGUST: I don't think their commanding officer...
BILL: Your opinion is your opinion. Keep going, all right.
QUINONES: In December 2010, an ABC News poll found that 77 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. But in our diner, there are plenty of people against it.
DINER (MALE): I originally thought that the way it was was okay.
QUINONES: Keep it quiet.
DINER (MALE): Keep it quiet. Just for yourself. Bringing it out like this, to me, I take, maybe I'm from the old school, but it's nice the way it was.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.