Thursday, June 09, 2011

GLAAD President Not "Qualified" To Speak

Yesterday, after GLAAD declined to have the president Jarrett Barrios come on my show without a board member accompanying him to discuss the recent controversies, GLAAD began offering the duo to other media outlets. One of those was, where Adam Polaski conducted an interview.

For a live radio broadcast there is limited time, and having two guests, particularly one who is unnecessary and might be there to run interference -- the board member GLAAD offered is a p.r. guy -- doesn't lend itself to a productive discussion. (As we told GLAAD, we're happy to have Barrios, who represents the group, and then have a board member later, separately, if we feel there are more answers needed.) For an online or print interview, however, you have more control in terms of what you use from either of the individuals, weeding out what is unnecessary. Adam Polaski did a good job at laying out the issues and asking questions that needed to be asked, and using the pertinent responses.

A few things that stuck out: In the only quote that Polaski used from Gary Bitner, the board member/p.r. guy, Bitner said that Barrios wasn't "qualified" to speak on some of the issues. I found that a very interesting choice of words for a board member to use in speaking about the group's president:

"Our decision was to go on," Bitner said, explaining that Signorile and his producers wanted to speak exclusively with Barrios. "But for the issues that would have obviously have come up, Jarrett wouldn't have been qualified to answer those questions."

On the issue of the AT&T/TMobile merger, Barrios of course said that there was no connection between the group writing the FCC in support of a merger out of the blue (they've not fully endorsed mergers and acquisitions before) and the fact that one of the board members is an AT&T executive. But it was in the discussion of the equally bizarre net neutrality letter, and the events surrounding it, that Barrios said something very interesting:

A letter under Barrios' name was submitted to the FCC that seems to support net neutrality...On Jan. 15, 2010, however, Barrios filed another letter requesting the withdrawal of the Jan. 4 letter, writing to the FCC, "I have never seen this letter and it is not my signature. Furthermore, the contents of the letter do not accurately reflect the views of our organization."

Barrios maintains that he did not sign off on the Jan. 4 letter, saying, "The letter was submitted in administrative error over a year and a half ago, and when I realized it [a few days later], I withdrew it.

This actually seems to back up former board co-chair Laurie Perper's story that Barrios or someone at GLAAD sent the letter and that Barrios later would tell people -- donors who complained and others at the group -- that his secretary or another assistant wrongly sent the letter (Perper said that this was cover, throwing his secretary or someone else under the bus, because Barrios had really sent it, but then freaked out after the complaints). In his retraction letter to the FCC, Barrios implies the original was some sort of forgery or malicious deception, but sticking with a story like that now would only continue to raise the question of why an investigation wasn't launched. So, now Barrios is saying it was an "administrative error." I wish that Polaski would have asked what that "error" was, specifically, and I hope other reporters will ask.

Polaski concludes his piece:

...[F]or a media organization to be this off-message and out of sync with its various parts is disconcerting and leaves more questions than answers.

Seems like GLAAD's damage control isn't working.