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Signorile: GLAAD inadequately handled ABC/Lambert dustup; Barrios responds

Not to keep dragging out the whole Adam Lambert AMA drama, but part of what gave this story legs was the sad capitulation of GLAAD, releasing an initial statement in agreement with ABC that the American Idol alum was not fit for live TV.

Mike Signorile had GLAAD's Jarrett Barrios on to find out what the thinking was behind its responses. Mike:

This is my full interview on the show yesterday with Jarrett Barrios of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation regarding the widespread criticism of the group in its handling of the Adam Lambert/ABC controversy, which had GLAAD sending out statement after statement reports that it backed ABC in banning Lambert from several shows.

Barrios came into the studio to sit down with me and sincerely wanted to clear the air. He accepted responsibility for what happened and admitted that the group's first update after ABC banned Lambert from two more shows was problematic, attributing it to a lack of clarity. But I still believe the explanations given weren't adequate — and judging from the callers to the show afterward, many people agree — and that GLAAD is still not taking a forceful stand. Nor do I believe, as I told Barrios, that the decision by The View to book Lambert for a taped segment Thursday was a “partial victory,” as he called it, since he's still banned from shows they had dumped him from.

Overall I think GLAAD has a long way to go in explaining what happened here and also its larger mission. It is compromised by the fact that it takes money from ABC –something else we discussed — and that it just doesn't seem to be at the forefront of controversies and defamation, more so focused on giving out awards and patting media on the back.

You can listen to the audio at Mike's pad. I think the important point is not whether Lambert's performance was tasteless or liberating, or the fact that he accomplished the mission of proving the double standard regarding male and female performers and sexuality, but the curtain was pulled away, exposing the weakness of a media watchdog organization that cannot accomplish its mission.

When faced with this obvious conflict of interest with ABC, GLAAD blinked. As Mike said, when you take money from a network, the organization places itself in a position where it's hard to hold accountable the very entities that provide funding — and access to the celebrities that populate many of those now-infamous awards ceremonies. 

When I think of a media watchdog group, my standard is Media Matters for America, which monitors TV, radio and other media practically 24/7 and works closely with the blogosphere to spread the well documented and researched hypocrisy and lies coming out of the mouthpieces of the right wing, but also the mainstream media talking heads and news organizations that purport to present fact-based, unbiased journalism.

MMFA and Think Progress actually cover many of the egregious anti-gay media stories out there along with general progressive media monitoring.So the model is out there, I'm just not sure why GLAAD is withering on the vine, not nimble and leading the way for the LGBT community. Hopefully it can be reshaped to become more proactive and not reactive and be a cutting edge media watchdog known more for activism than awards. It's a tall order to break inertia — and long-held ties to industries that GLAAD needs professional distance from.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding