The twists and turns in the story of GLAAD's executive director's resignation
UPDATE: I wanted to throw something out there — we have been focusing on GLAAD’s unseemly involvement with AT&T/T-Mobile and its appeals on Net Neutrality. GLAAD cannot be the only LGBT organization that has “taken the bait,” as it were. Reporters with time to do this should do a cursory search on the FCC web site for other LGBT orgs or the name of the executive directors to see if they filed any variant of the AT&T letters as well. This scandal may go a lot deeper than GLAAD.
On Twitter today:
RT @MSignorile: GLAAD Prez J Barrios quits after call by 3 top LGBT bloggers – @MSignorile @Pam_Spaulding & @MichaelRogersDC OutQ News 8aET
I’m sure you all have heard the news that Jarrett Barrios, the executive director of GLAAD, has resigned. I actually haven’t written about this drama outside of a mailing list; mostly because it was unfolding while I was quite under the weather.
The short version is that this is a terrible hot mess that is institutionally damaging to GLAAD. As it was first reported by The Politico:
POLITICO’s Eliza Krigman reported recently that GLAAD was among a number of progressive groups with no obvious institutional interest in telecom issues who received money from AT&T and subsequently issued public statements supporting AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile. Another letter was sent from GLAAD to the FCC opposing possible net neutrality rules. GLAAD later rescinded the letter, claiming it was sent in error. The issue had created an uproar in the gay blogosphere.
A source familiar with the board’s deliberations told POLITICO that the executive committee voted in favor of removing president Jarrett Barrios, who refused to resign. Barrios may now take the issue to the full board of directors.
…Barrios’ first letter to the FCC was dated Jan 4, 2010; a second, dated Jan. 15, claimed the earlier letter was a mistake. He later tried to blame the whole imbroglio on his secretary. But the backtracking only appeared to alienate him further from a membership and board already in turmoil over the letter. Nor did it help that other organizations, including another advocacy organization, the NAACP, endorsed the merger.
Barrios’ position was further undermined when a former board member, Laurie Perper, appeared on Michelangelo Signorile’s Sirius radio show to say that GLAAD had become so badly tarnished by such moves that the best thing was for the group to cease operations all together.
While I was at Netroots Nation, we learned that in fact, Barrios decided to resign. But if you haven’t caught up with the issues involved, here is the expanded Cliff Notes edition, courtesy of Sirius XM OutQ News.
The president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Jarrett Barrios, resigned over the weekend. His departure comes as three of the most-prominent blogger-activists in the LGBT community were set to call on Barrios to step down, claiming that the gay media watchdog under his leadership has done the bidding of a corporate sponsor at the expense of the gay community.
Last week, Mike Rogers of the website PageOneQ, and Pam Spaulding, the proprietor of PamsHouseBlend.com, joined OutQ’s Michelangelo Signorile in calling on GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios to step down. [See Rogers’s and Spaulding’s statements below.]
The three activists argued that GLAAD’s decision to sign on to a letter supporting A-T-and-T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile; and revelations about a letter to the FCC backing A-T-and-T’s position against “net neutrality” in internet access-a letter that was subsequently withdrawn-depicted an organization that was, in Rogers’s words, “rudderless.” Barrios had admitted only to making a “mistake” by not personally reviewing the net neutrality letter before it was sent. But his resignation was confirmed Saturday evening by GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro, following reports by Politico’s Ben Smith that GLAAD’s executive committee had voted to remove him-and Barrios had initially resisted.
The bloggers’ criticism wasn’t limited to Barrios. Rogers and Signorile also expressed concern about the role of GLAAD board member Troup Coronado. Until recently, Coronado was a lobbyist for A-T-and-T. GLAAD has so far deflected questions about Coronado’s involvement in the A-T-and-T merger and net neutrality letters, saying only that the language for both was provided by A-T-and-T. But in a statement on an activists’ forum, Rogers says Coronado is to blame for the “fiasco” at GLAAD, and all three activists are still calling on Coronado to quit the GLAAD board.
Here is what I said a few days ago and it pained me to say it, given the hard working people doing the work related to GLAAD’s mission, and have been caught up in such an institutional dilemma. But it fits a sad pattern:
As a movement, there is nothing more important than personal and professional integrity, particularly in leadership. I’ve blogged many times about institutional rot, where an organization reaches a stage where management goes astray from its mission and focuses on self-preservation. It’s not inevitable, but the propensity for this sort of disastrous thinking increases exponentially when an organization is tempted to take a dark path.
This is one of those times. To reiterate what others have said, this isn’t about the foot soldiers committed to supporting the original mission of GLAAD, this is about key figures losing their way. You cannot have leadership throwing the organization overboard with a taint of this scale. That this scandal has crossed over to FDL and the larger progressive community cannot be ignored. Many thanks to Mike Signorile for his persistence and the work over at Bilerico.
It is indeed a sad day since I know Jarrett has paid his dues in the movement, but he and Coronado (and perhaps more) need to tender their resignations.
Mike Rogers also has a statement up on the OutQ News blog. And then today, Mike Signorile reported on this development – Is Jarrett Barrios Trying to Get the GLAAD Board to Save Him?
I will have some additional information to add to this post later today, but I did want to get the story out there to catch people up on this flap.
* GLAAD’s Head Ousted by Board. (Edge)
* GLAAD President Admits Allegation on FCC Letter True. (The Gist):
After having his staffers call around and savage the reputation of GLAAD former board co-chair Laurie Perper, GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios has now admitted that one of the most serious allegations she told me on the show earlier in the week is true. Barrios would not come on my show to respond to the allegations, and instead had his staff trying to cover them up or change the subject and vilify and attack the messenger.
Barrios now admits that the letter to the FCC opposing net neutrality on behalf of GLAAD was sent by his office and he did approve it. He is blaming his administrative assistant for sending the trojan horse letter — a form letter which GLAAD sponsor AT & T sent to GLAAD for the group to sign onto, a letter that opposes net neutrality even though the wording is very vague and to those outside the industry it might seem like it is pro-neutrality when it is not. But Barrios admits that he did sign off on it, even though, he claims, he didn’t really know what it was nor did he read it.