About 250 demonstrators showed up
Wednesday outside the Florida offices of Tampa's WFLA Channel 8
demanding an apology from executives for airing an anti-gay video.
The station aired the American Family
Association's (AFA) controversial documentary special on the “radical
homosexual agenda” titled Speechless: Silencing the Christians
over the objections of the LGBT community and on the night of the St.
Petersburgh Gay Pride parade.
The protesters chanted “Shame, Shame,
Channel 8. Make your money and spread your hate!” and held signs
that read “News Channel H8.”
Broadcasters in several markets have
backed off airing the program after loud protests from gay and
lesbian rights groups, including WOOD-TV 8 in Grand Rapids, Michigan
and WSXY 6.2 in Columbus, Ohio.
AFA marketing materials say the program
will “reveal the truth about the radical homosexual agenda and its
impact on the family, the nation and religious freedom.”
In a blog post, the Gay & Lesbian
Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a gay rights group, said that
the special was “designed to perpetuate a climate of hostility
towards our community and to create a culture where we are less safe,
less secure, and where our families are put in harm's way.”
“Make no mistake,” Joe Solmonese,
president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay
rights advocate, said in a statement. “This is the opening salvo
in a campaign designed to denigrate LGBT Americans and deny us our
“Just as our community is at a point
where measures protecting millions of American heads to Congress and
a willing president, the AFA unleashes 60 minutes of lies and
distortions to scare voters. The AFA and its allies have never been
'speechless' when it comes to promoting their own agenda, and that's
driving a wedge in the very places where LGBT Americans work, live
and even pray.”
The program, an edited down version of
a 14-episode series that initially aired on the INSP Network, is
hosted by conservative talk show host Janet Parshall.
In the documentary, the AFA asserts
that proposed federal hate crime legislation would outlaw religious
speech, that employment protection laws force churches to hire gays
and lesbians, that gay men and women are largely responsible for
HIV/AIDS and all STDs, and that gay marriage hurts the family because
it deprives children of a mother or a father.
“This video outrageously promotes
spiritual violence against LGBT people,” said Harry Knox, director
of the Human Rights Campaign's Religion & Faith Program.
“Despite what the AFA claims, a growing number of mainstream
denominations have endorsed hate crime legislation, including the
United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA and the
Episcopal Church USA.”
The special has aired in several other
smaller markets such as Traverse City, Michigan (WPBN – NBC),
Toledo, Ohio (WUPW – FOX), Charlotte, North Carolina (WJZY – The
CW), and Greenville, South Carolina (WSPA – CBS).
The Greenville station manager issued
an apology after the program aired, angering the AFA.
The Tampa protest was organized by
Equality Florida, a group that lobbies for gay rights in the state.
R. Zeke Fread, a spokesman for the event and the director of Pride
Tampa Bay, estimated 250 people showed up to protest the station's
The protesters say Channel 8 executives
gave their concerns little attention, adding that WFLA General
Manager John Scheuler told them that he did not believe the special
was hateful but those who “chose the homosexual lifestyle might be
upset by the [program's] strident tone.”
“This is not an infomercial,” Fread
told myfoxtampabay.com. “They aren't trying to sell anything.
They are trying to convince people that we want special rights.
Equal rights are only special rights to people when they are denied
Scheuler responded to the protest in a
statement: “Our overriding mission is to provide platforms for the
broadest points of view and be responsible to the community we serve.
We understand that doing so can cause strong disagreement. We
screened this program and ran a disclaimer before and after it ran
noting that this does not reflect the views of WFLA.”
Internet commenters on the protest were
more inclined to agree with Scheuler than the protesters by a large
“Who's intolerant now?” asked Honey
from Clearwater at tampabay.com. “Just swish on back home.”
“Quit trying to Taliban the Bible!”
Michael from Valrico added.