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. Barrios spoke to Bil Browning at Bilerico.com:
The letter's origins lay with AT&T; the telecom giant sent Barrios suggested wording for another letter to the FCC. Barrios' special assistant used the language verbatim to create the letter, signed his name to it, and sent it in.
Barrios recounts that he was at an airport when his assistant called him to go through some items on his agenda. In a hurry to board his plane, when she told him that "they" wanted him to send in the letter to the FCC, Barrios assumed he needed to resend his first letter again. He authorized her to send the letter without any oversight.
Barrios' special assistant, Jeanne Christiano, is a longtime staffer for the embattled leader. When he served in the Massachusetts state senate, she was his Director of Budget & District Relations. When Barrios became the president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, Christiano joined him at the new office. When Barrios accepted the position with GLAAD in New York, Christiano relocated with him to continue serving as his special assistant.
While her job entails administrative duties like scheduling and filing expense reports, staffers describe her more as an advisor and confidante of Barrios. He confirmed she fills a much larger role than an administrative assistant and says she advises him on administrative decisions but not policy decisions.
"This was from a letter with language from AT&T suggesting that we support this, and at the time, it was not something I had seen," Barrios said. "When I saw it, we withdrew it to reflect our perspective."
As Browning notes: "This belies Barrios' earlier statement to the FCC that he didn't authorize the second letter or have any knowledge of it's origins. In actuality, he was trying to cover up for a longtime friend and advisor's mistake."
It also is an act of enormous incompetence in which no one was made to take responsibility, as the assistant is still with the group. Perhaps she is still with GLAAD because she really didn't make the mistake after all. Laurie Perper stated that Barrios did in fact send the letter, but used the assistant story as cover. According to Perper, the assistant is taking the hit for her boss's incompetence. Whatever the details, the fact that Barrios and GLAAD at first tried to cover up the allegations and savage Laurie Perper is outrageous. As in all scandals, it's the cover-up, the deception that is more egregious here. As one of his board members telegraphed yesterday, Barrios is not "qualified' to run the organization. It pains me to see this, as I admire and respect the great work of people like Rich Ferraro, who runs GLAAD'S media operation, and others who work at GLAAD who I consider friends. These people work hard to fight for the cause. They deserve better leadership.
Jarrett Barrios must resign. From what I'm told, he actually is looking to get out of GLAAD, having applied for an opening as executive director of Equality California. He didn't get it. And it's hard to imagine who would hire him after this fiasco.