NY Times on Gay TV: Winning Liberal ‘Saints,’ Vanishing Conservative ‘Bigots’

The New York Times played make-believe on the front page Wednesday in an article titled “Gay on TV: It’s All In the Family.” Media reporter Brian Stelter began by describing a transgender plot on “Glee,” marrying lesbian doctors on “Grey’s Anatomy,” and two men adopting a second child on “Modern Family.” Then he concluded: “What’s missing? The outrage.”

The outrage is not “missing.” That’s simply not factual. It might be missing in the newsroom of the Times, but not in the country. Stelter found an academic expert to divide the country into conservative “bigots” and liberal “saints”:

“TV and movie representation matters,” said Edward Schiappa, a professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota. In five separate studies, Mr. Schiappa and his colleagues have found that the presence of gay characters on television programs decreases prejudices among viewers of the programs. “These attitude changes are not huge — they don’t change bigots into saints. But they can snowball,” Mr. Schiappa said.

At the Times, “saints” are the people who want to shred the Bible and let the Gospel be defined by Hollywood film and television writers. Later in the day, the University of Minnesota promoted Schiappa as an expert on how Obama's proclamation for gay marriage was "a remarkably bold and courageous move for Obama to take as it almost is guaranteed to cost him more votes than it will gain," but he was like LBJ pushing civil rights in the South in the Sixties.

According to Stelter’s Twitter account, this was the defining quote of the article:

“What this is about, really, is how far America has come, not how far television has come,” said Christopher Lloyd, a co-creator of “Modern Family.”

Baloney. Look right below that, where Amanda Wills of About.com (a New York Times company) expressed her thrill: "I love this piece. I'm originally from the South, and my parents are very conservative. TV is slowly opening their minds."

This whole article is channeling Hollywood triumphalism, that decades of propaganda from “Soap” and "Three's Company" forward have made their liberalizing, secularizing impact on America. Liberals are winning, and conservatives aren’t just losing, but are somehow vanishing, even as Stelter cites Bill O’Reilly segments and the MRC and Parents Television Council. Here’s paragraphs 20 and 21:

Media watchdogs like the Parents Television Council, one of the most active conservative media groups, do occasionally speak out against TV programming; but a spokeswoman for the council said it did not distinguish between gay and straight content.

Of the shows with gay plot lines, “Glee” has been the most scrutinized: Dan Gainor, a representative of another prominent group, the Media Research Center, said it “merely pretends to be a show for young people” while actually serving as an “assault on traditional values and morality.” His group, though, focuses more on purported liberal bias in the news media than on prime-time programming.

It’s not just odd that Stelter ignores that Gainor oversees the MRC’s Culture and Media Institute, which is focused on traditional values in TV news and entertainment.

It’s odd that Gainor’s quote came from an e-mail interview in....April 2011. MRC publicists resent me an e-mail from Stelter dated April 20, 2011.

The great preponderance of viewpoints in the Times piece, as usual, came from the triumphant liberals, fighting against the “narrow-minded” folks:

"I think I would be lying if I said that I didn’t expect, at some point, for some narrow-minded group of people to try to create some publicity” around “Glee” or “Modern Family,” said Dana Walden, the chairwoman of 20th Century Fox Television, which produces both shows. “The bottom line is that people embrace these characters completely.”

Steven Levitan, a co-creator of “Modern Family,” said he thought that when the show started, the inclusion of Cameron and Mitchell would “limit our success a bit, because it will perhaps alienate a certain segment of the population.”

“In fact,” he said, “it’s turned out to be quite the opposite,” a point he reiterated last fall when the series won its second Emmy Award for best comedy...

Shonda Rhimes, the “Grey’s Anatomy” producer, recalled having to “go to the mattresses with broadcast standards and practices” at ABC in 2006 to insist on preserving a steamy shower sequence with three female doctors. That sequence was just a fantasy in the mind of one of the male characters — but now six years later, in the show’s version of reality, two female doctors are married. “Nobody even blinked” at the relationship, Ms. Rhimes said.

The only outcry she recalled came when one of the doctors, Arizona, flirted with a man. “It was from lesbians who said, ‘How dare she sleep with a man!’ ”

The Times never wrote a front-page story when Shonda Rhimes and ABC fired their African-American star Isaiah Washington for using the gay F-bomb -- off camera. They did publish an op-ed on April 13, 2007 titled "Our Prejudices, Ourselves" by gay activist playwright Harvey Fierstein complaining he wasn't punished: 

What surprises me, I guess, is how choosy the anti-P.C. crowd is about which hate speech it will not tolerate. Sure, there were voices of protest when the TV actor Isaiah Washington called a gay colleague a ''faggot.'' But corporate America didn't pull its advertising from ''Grey's Anatomy,'' as it did with Mr. Imus, did it? And when Ann Coulter likewise tagged a presidential candidate last month, she paid no real price.

Washington paid a price weeks later, getting axed after being run through the LGBT apology machinery of making flagrant apologies and pro-gay public service announcements.

Discrimination against the "anti-gay" is applauded by liberal journalists. And at the Times? “What’s missing? The outrage.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis