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CNN defends host's use of the word "faggot"

I know I’m slow to this story, considering how I’m usually all over media portrayals of LGBT people. But this is one of those stories that’s better talked about later rather than never.

Americablog has a story up on their site (dated Jan. 24, 2007) entitled CNN defends host’s use of the word “faggot” – network slammed by lead gay anti-defamation group. GLAAD has a press release up on the story too.

It seems Glenn Beck, who hosts an opinion show on CNN’s Headline News doesn’t think the term “faggot” is anything more than a “naughty name.” Just so I don’t mistate this, let me excerpt the exchange between Beck and a guest, as reported by GLAAD:

Glenn BeckBECK: But anyway, Dave, what is the-what is the controversy? One of the guys called another guy a naughty name.

GLOVER: Yes. Basically you have Isaiah Washington, who’s one of the stars of the show, who referred to one of his co-stars during a heated argument as a derogatory term for a gay man that starts with “F”, rhymes with maggot. Did it a couple more times after that. And do you like how I did that?

BECK: Yes.

GLOVER: And?

BECK: Do you know that “The New York Times” wouldn’t even print-I mean, we can say the word. We’re having an adult conversation here. Wouldn’t even print the word “faggot.”

GLOVER: Right.

BECK: Wouldn’t print it. I find that amazing.

John of Americablog reported that…

So CNN is now defending its host, Glenn Beck, and his use of the word “faggot” on the air, AND his suggestion that the word isn’t very derogatory. Way to step in it even further, CNN. Faggot is the n-word to gays, and you think it’s appropriate? Does CNN permit the n-word on the air? And would they permit their hosts to suggest that it’s simply a “naughty name”? CNN has a host who is a loose cannon and who has already slurred Muslims, gays, and more. (Though, interestingly, I doubt CNN would let a host slur blacks or Jews, so apparently free speech has its limits even at CNN.) But rather than apologize, CNN defends their host who thinks the word “faggot” is appropriate for CNN, and who thinks the word “faggot” is simply a “naughty name.”

I think CNN is about to see just how the gay community feels about TV networks who think the bigoted slurs are no big deal. Why? Because now GLAAD is involved. They’re the gay community’s largest anti-defamation group. That elevates the CNN controversy to a whole new level. And the fact that CNN is defending their host’s use of the word “faggot,” and his attempt to belittle the damage the word causes, is not going to sit well with the non-FOX-news crowd that usually watches CNN.

From GLAAD’s press release:

“Beck’s obnoxious repetition of the slur — and his flip dismissal of it as simply a ‘naughty name’ – speaks volumes about his appalling ignorance of its impact,” Giuliano said. “Beck added nothing to the audience’s understanding of the issue, except perhaps to demonstrate his juvenile belief that repeating an anti-gay slur makes him an ‘adult.'”

On Tuesday, GLAAD reached out to CNN’s standards and practices department to discuss the matter. On Wednesday, a CNN spokesperson told GLAAD that Beck wasn’t using the word himself, that Beck’s show is an “opinion show” and not a news program, and that Beck was expressing an opinion about The New York Times’ decision to not use the word.

“The ugliness of Glenn Beck’s word choice and his ignorance of its impact really speak for themselves,” Giuliano said. “Other CNN personalities have discussed derogatory slurs as part of this story without debasing that discussion. CNN has a responsibility to address Beck’s crudeness and require that he adhere to basic standards of respect.”

I used the comment section to CNN Headline News to let CNN know I won’t watch either of the CNN networks as long as Glenn Beck is employed there; I let show sponsors Best Buy and Office Depot know I won’t shop at their stores until they drop sponsorship of Beck’s show.

An epithet isn’t a “naughty name.”  Sometimes folk in and out of the LGBT community need to remind broader society just how ugly a term “faggot” can be. For me, this is one of those times.

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Autumn Sandeen

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