MSNBC’s openly gay daytime host Thomas Roberts has almost daily segments promoting the network’s pro-gay agenda. Over the past several months, one of Roberts’ pet projects has been opposing a long-standing policy by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) prohibiting openly gay individuals from being members of or leaders in the organizations.
On May 23, the BSA voted to allow openly gay individuals to join troops as of next year, but gay adults would still not be allowed to lead a troop. As a result, on Thursday May 24, Roberts opened his 11:00 a.m. show with the on-screen graphic “Far Enough?” to express his displeasure with the BSA’s decision. Rather than leave it posed as a question, Roberts made pretty clear his view that indeed it didn't go "far enough."
After discussing the logistical and legal aspects of the BSA’s decision with fellow MSNBCer Craig Melvin, Roberts brought on GLADD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) national spokesperson Wilson Cruz to mock opposition to the new policy. Roberts began the segment with Cruz by stating that:
Clearly a lot of people are supportive. Like I said, it's time to look and it and say thanks for maybe moving the ball forward just a bit. But how does that this resonate to say okay you're good enough until you're 18 then you're not good enough anymore.
This allowed Cruz to repeat the MSNBC graphic claiming that, “So when we hear people complain and say that this hasn't gone far enough, we completely agree with them.” Roberts then claimed that the only objection people have to openly gay individuals leading troops was that, “there [is] such a hypersexualization of this issue when it comes to being in the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts.
Roberts doubled-down on his belief that the opposition is solely about sex:
To think that the only reason why they would want to be involved with the Boy Scouts is because of some type of sick fascination, sexual fascination with young boys. How do we get rid of the hypersexualization of this?
While Roberts did air clips of individuals who oppose the new BSA policy, he brought on no guests with an opposing view to have a real discussion, seeking a monologue with Cruz rather than a spirited dialogue or debate.
What's more, other than showing a clip from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints saying the BSA policy will not impact their support of BSA troops, Roberts failed to mention that the majority of troops are sponsored by other religious groups who might be opposed to the new policy. Because many conservative religious groups oppose this policy, it's quite likely many troops will find themselves scrambling to find new sponsors as conservative churches, synagogues and mosques end up terminating their relationship with the BSA over the matter.
Unfortunately for viewers and the interests of a reasonable debate, Roberts decided to play the role of advocate rather than journalist.
See relevant transcript below.
May 24, 2013
11:00 a.m. Eastern
THOMAS ROBERTS: The Boy Scouts will allow openly gay members in their ranks but that same welcome mat isn’t being rolled out for openly gay leaders. 61% of just over 1,200 delegates voted to lift the ban on gay scouts as of next year. Leaders followed the vote with these remarks about what's next in the wake of this deeply divisive debate.
WAYNE PERRY (President, Boy Scouts of America): It's a very difficult decision for a lot of people. But we're moving forward together.
WAYNE BROCK (Chief Scout Executive, Boy Scouts of America): Now the decision has been made, it's time to move forward. And it's time to stand together.
ROBERTS: Those against lifting the ban called the decision a bad move and one that could split the Scouts right down the middle.
JOHN STEMBERGER (Boy Scout Troop Leader): This will devastate the Boy Scouts of America. Their own estimates show that 200,000 to 400,000 young people will leave the program.
UNKNOWN WOMAN: Would you allow your young son to go camping with a scout troop that has three or four homosexual people who are openly practicing?
ROBERTS: Well, the vote does not change anything for openly gay leaders like Jennifer Tyrrell. Tyrell, an Ohio mom was ousted as den leader of her son’s pack because she is an open lesbian.
JENNIFER TYRRELL: How can they do that to kids? How can they tell little boys that the people that love them and adore them aren't good enough?
ROBERTS: For gay and lesbian parents and gay and lesbian scouts today marks the beginning of phase 2.
ZACH WAHLS: We need to have full inclusion for parents and for adults. It doesn't make any sense to tell an 18-year-old eagle scout that because you turned 18, you're no longer fit to be a scout.
ROBERTS: MSNBC’s Craig Melvin is reporting now from Grapevine, Texas. Craig this has been a long and hard fight but gay rights advocates on one side they're calling this a partial victory, but in response to the Boy Scout leadership, did they give any type of hint that they may reconsider the ban on gay scout leaders in the future? And this is just the first step in a larger rollout.
CRAIG MELVIN: Yeah, quite the opposite, in fact, Thomas. We're just outside Dallas that vote held yesterday in Grapevine, which is a suburb of Dallas, Texas. Yesterday's scout leaders gave the impression that they're done with this issue for now. They want to focus on moving the organization forward. Some 2.4 million boy scouts in this country, about 100,000 different scouting units all over America. And just to give you some background in terms of how we got here. You know, back in 2000 there was that Supreme Court decision that allowed the organization to decide for itself how it would treat homosexual members. And then back in January of this year the national leadership revealed that they were considering some sort of change. But at the time, they thought it might be best left to local troops and local packs. That decision was met with a whirlwind of controversy. There were petitions. There were protests. So then they decided to put it up for a vote that vote then happened after a bunch of town hall meetings, they conducted some internal polling as well. And when they conducted the polling, Thomas, they found that much like the attitudes in this country, attitudes inside the Boy Scout organization had also shifted in terms of how they view homosexuality.
ROBERTS: And one thing, Craig, the Mormon Church that’s been a major sponsor of the boy scouts. Have they made any statements about this decision? What do they feel about how the BSA is moving forward?
MELVIN: Yeah, you know, 70% of all Boy Scout troops and packs are sponsored by some sort of religious organization. The Mormon Church as you just indicated the Mormon Church is the largest of the religious groups that sponsors Boy Scouts. They put out a statement yesterday shortly after the decision, I'm going to read the statement for you in part. Again, this is from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they say sexual orientation has not previously been and is not now a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-Day Saints scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest. Again that statement from the Mormon Church. We should note here Thomas while a lot of folks are saying this is just another sign of how attitudes have shifted in this country with regards to homosexuality. There are a lot of folks that have said that the Boy Scouts did not go far enough, because as you mentioned, the ban on homosexual leadership is still in place inside the Boy Scouts.
ROBERTS: Craig Melvin reporting from Grapevine, Texas. Craig, thanks so much. I’d like to bring in and welcome Wilson Cruz who’s GLAAD’s national spokesperson. Wilson joins me here in studio. It’s great to see you. I know that this is certainly something to celebrate in the moment for GLAAD but your work isn’t done at least you’ve said that so far. But I want to talk about the reaction that I have been getting on my Facebook page, because a lot of people find this to be maybe a minute to celebrate but contradictory at the same time. Al Benson wrote saying what message does this send to the world that we settled for this offensive discrimination that, we admit, it's okay to keep adult gays out because they are harmful to these kids. Clearly a lot of people are supportive. Like I said, it's time to look and it and say thanks for maybe moving the ball forward just a bit. But how does that this resonate to say okay you're good enough until you're 18 then you're not good enough anymore.
WILSON CRUZ: Well look, we're celebrating at GLAAD because we didn't know, this wasn’t even a priority until GLAAD heard from people like Jen Tyrrell who called us to tell us about being kicked out as a den mother, of her own child's troop. And so we're celebrating the fact that we're on the way to getting Jen Tyrrell to the ability to be a den mother again. So we always knew this was going to be a long, hard battle to fight and this is just the first victory along that battle. We are committed to seeing LGBT people allowed to be involved throughout the scout experience. So when we hear people complain and say that this hasn't gone far enough, we completely agree with them.
ROBERTS: Meanwhile, why is there such a hyper sexualization of this issue when it comes to being in the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts. I mean, here’s the thing, if you want to be a Boy Scout the qualification is you’re a boy who wants to be a Boy Scout. If you want to be a parent, a troop leader, you just have to be the parent of a kid that's involved. I know the girl scouts, they celebrate troop dads, they even have a patch that they sell on their national website. We have a look at that patch there saying awesome Girl Scout dads, obviously this is not taken into the context targeting hetero-dads thinking that they’re going to have easy pickings to a group of young Girl Scouts the way that Boy Scouts are trying to criminalize adult gay men. To think that the only reason why they would want to be involved with the Boy Scouts is because of some type of sick fascination, sexual fascination with young boys. How do we get rid of the hypersexualization of this?
CRUZ: This is about parents wanting to spend time with their children and have, be a part of an American institution, this is not about sex. Nobody's talking about sex, this is about parents like Jen Tyrrell who want to spend time with their son.
ROBERTS: But you might be saying that but that’s not what the BSA is saying. They have sex on the brain. That’s all they’re considering. I mean we have the sound bite there from that one woman saying you know do you really want your kids to go away with these boy scouts the ones now that could be openly gay and practicing. Practicing homosexually, as if they're practicing science experiments. I don’t get it.
CRUZ: I don't get it either,
ROBERTS: It’s over my pay grade.
CRUZ: It's completely over my head. We really are talking about people who want to spend time with their children and children who should be allowed to spend time with their parents. And I actually like that comment from earlier, was what message are we sending to our youth both gay and straight about LGBT people that, once they turn 18, all of a sudden, everything they have learned from the scouts no longer is valid?