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Memphis: local news stations fearmonger about 'black lesbian gangs'

Is this how news stations handle sweeps week in Memphis? No wonder an amendment could pass in Tennessee with 80% of the vote. Sigh.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), along with Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center and the Tennessee Equality are outraged by local ABC24 and CW30 affiliates that aired a lovely piece called “Gays Taking Over/Violent Femmes,” which portrayed black lesbians in gangs that were preying on school girls, forcing them to have sex.  As if orientation has anything to do with savage gang behavior. (GLAAD):

The principal interview subject, a so-called “gang expert” employed by the local sheriff’s office, suggested that the sexual harassment and violence the gang allegedly perpetuated would make its victims gay. The report offered no evidence to support these assertions, and the station’s general manager admitted to GLAAD that the station had not independently verified its interview subjects’ claims.

GLAAD raised serious objections, calling for the station to pull the report from that evening’s news program. The general manager, assistant news director and reporter stood behind their story and removed only some of its offensive elements. The station cut repeated references to Gays Taking Over as a “lesbian gang” and removed the depiction of the report’s only white woman as a potential target by the gang. In addition, the anchor and reporter told viewers the story was not intended to disparage lesbians and acknowledged that gay community members had expressed concerns about the piece. The two also disclosed that the station did not have documentary evidence (such as arrest records) to substantiate the story’s claims.

Despite these changes, however, the February 28 report retained its sensationalistic, fear-mongering tone and the homophobic commentary of its primary interview subject.

Quotes from the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center are after the flip.The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center’s Public Policy Committee, Initiative: Fairness (I:F) responded to the piece:

When the final product aired, our worst fears were not realized, but our best hopes for positive coverage of gay people were far from achieved. Eyewitness News may have intended to present a story that seeks to protect children, but I:F cannot condone the two stations’ sensationalist and demeaning approach to covering this topic.

Eyewitness News failed to present a balanced portrayal of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) citizens of the Midsouth – citizens who also value the safety and welfare of their own children and family. Eyewitness News promoted irrational fear and negative stereotypes of lesbians in the segment by interviewing lesbians who were in prison and by including violent bathroom scene reenactments of young girls under attack by other girls. Rather than focusing on the criminal behavior of gang members, the segment drew absurd connections between criminal activity and sexual orientation.

GLBT citizens share the same concerns as other Memphians about youth involvement in gang activities. Criminal gangs are never appropriate groups for children, especially children who are vulnerable or may have questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a city like ours, it is irresponsible and harmful for media outlets to portray any group, especially those rarely shown by the media, in a negative light.

…Chris Sanders, Chairman and President of Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) states, “TEP joins I:F and GLAAD in expressing serious concerns about the sensationalist way in which this story was promoted prior to its airing. While the topic of youth violence concerns us all, the portrayal of lesbian youth as violent and predatory is inflammatory and divisive. What we need is greater understanding that can lead to solutions to the problem.”

Another report, that aired on Monday continued fomenting the homophobia and confusing the issue with a report on a gang calling itself “Dykes for Life.”

The station information…


  Eyewitness News ABC24 and CW30
  Rebecca Medina, Reporter
  (901) 321-7606

Bridget Lovelle, Assistant News Director
  (901) 321-7535 or

Jack Peck, General Manager
  (901) 321-7623

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Pam Spaulding

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