Wednesday, June 08, 2011

GLAAD President Declines to Defend Organization

After the former board co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Laurie Perper, came on the show yesterday and made very serious allegations about the motivations for GLAAD's endorsement of the AT&T/TMobile merger (and other serious concerns that have arisen), I invited GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios to come on the show today. We were told by his staff that he was indeed available for 2:30 ET.

Most of the claims about him -- that he traded favors with a board member who was an AT&T employee in backing the merger, and that he actually did write a letter to the FCC on net neutrality which Barrios had claimed was not written by him (implying it was forged) and had retracted -- were serious and I certainly wanted to give him equal time. But we were soon told that he would only come on the show with a member of the GLAAD board -- who happens to be a p.r. guy whose firm does crisis management -- and this just seemed ridiculous. GLAAD's media rep claimed only the board member could respond to what Perper said about the board members and key staffers (upwards of 14) who left the organization because of Barrios' performance. But only those board members and staffers who left could speak to that, not a current board member.

And it's interesting that they weren't even offering a board co-chair or even the board member at the center of this, the AT&T official, but rather one who does p.r. This seemed more so like Barrios needed a coach and someone who would run interference, perhaps to keep him from answering some of the questions he might not like to answer but which the LGBT community needs answers on. There is absolutely no need for a board member to come on the show because Jarrett Barrios represents the group, the job the board hired him to do.

Perhaps most telling is the complete crisis mode the group is in. Various staffers have been frantically calling around, including to my producer, trying to do damage control, refute the story, and, in some instances,smearing Laurie Perper.

It is absolutely stunning that the president of an organization facing very serious allegations cannot come on a radio show and answer questions. This only leaves all of those questions, much bigger than simply why the group backed the merger, unanswered, and the serious allegations open and not responded to. GLAAD did post a weakly written statement, but it does not address most of what Laurie Perper said (fore example, that American Airlines has dropped GLAAD entirely as a supporter); claims she lied when in fact it doesn't refute her statements; and plays creatively with numbers to make it seem as the the group is doing gangbusters, when in fact her points still stand regarding a drop of about $8 to 10 million in revenue from 2008 to 2009. (With 2010 going up a mere $657K, as the GLAAD statement claims, that drop is huge and still being felt.) And it means that the troubles at GLAAD are much bigger than any of us imagined.