GLAAD ups attack on Dr. Laura’s TV debut

LOS ANGELES: Stung by a lack of response from the Dr. Laura Schlessinger camp, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has intensified its efforts to sink the radio host’s new syndicated TV show.

LOS ANGELES: Stung by a lack of response from the Dr. Laura Schlessinger camp, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has intensified its efforts to sink the radio host’s new syndicated TV show.

LOS ANGELES: Stung by a lack of response from the Dr. Laura

Schlessinger camp, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

(GLAAD) has intensified its efforts to sink the radio host’s new

syndicated TV show.



Attempting to head off the September 11 debut of Paramount TV’s Dr.

Laura, GLAAD has upped its anti-Laura ante with the launch of a new

online activism program. A downloadable kit, available on the GLAAD Web

site, includes a list of stations airing the show and airtimes; a sample

letter to potential advertisers; a 52-page guide to ’media essentials’;

and a Q&A sheet listing talking points for use in discussing Dr. Laura

with local media.



The kit marks the latest battle in what has become a two-year war

between GLAAD and the controversial radio host. Since late 1997, when

gay activists first identified Schlessinger as a source of what they

considered ’defamatory’ remarks about homosexuals, GLAAD has conducted

vast media relations and community outreach efforts to rein her in.



According to GLAAD deputy director Steve Spurgeon, the initial goal was

to simply educate Schlessinger about the potential damage her on-air

statements could do to the gay community.



’As the situation escalated, when Laura was so non-responsive to our

concerns, we shifted the efforts to an exercise in our right of

objection,’ he explained.



According to Spurgeon, from the very beginning the GLAAD strategy has

been to ’let Laura speak for herself’ - so the group has taped her show

and provided direct transcripts of her remarks about gays. Specific

tactics have included media outreach targeting ’thought leader’

publications like The New York Times, to the formation of alliances with

organizations like NOW.



GLAAD has proven particularly savvy at the media relations game. For

example, for every on-air comment or printed article stating

Schlessinger’s views, the organization has shot out a ’response’ press

release. In fact, when Time recently ran what the group considered a

one-sided interview with Schlessinger, GLAAD successfully lobbied to

contribute a full-page rebuttal by executive director Joan McGarry.



According to the Dr. Laura camp - which, ironically enough, is headed up

by Keven Bellows, a former colleague of Spurgeon’s at Ketchum - GLAAD

has them both out-armed and out-staffed.



’What you have to remember is that GLAAD is essentially a PR company,’

she said. ’Its sole mission is to address the media regarding its

portrayal of gays and lesbians. We have much more to do than just talk

to media.’



According to Bellows, attempts by her team to hire a national PR firm

for assistance have failed. ’They won’t touch us,’ she said. ’What you

don’t see is the level of internal intimidation being applied on these

organizations (to not work with Schlessinger).’



With Schlessinger’s syndicated TV show set to launch in 98% of US

markets, only time will tell which side will ultimately win out.



’Our overall strategy now is just to let people see for themselves,’

Bellows said. ’GLAAD won’t be able to sell this particular brand of

hate-mongering after the public gets to see who Laura really is on the

air.’



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