The controversy continues over Chaz Bono's participation in ABC's upcoming season of "Dancing with the Stars." The response to the transgender contestant's role in a once-family friendly show has left ABC with an ongoing PR problem.
Chaz Bono is considered a "star" for one reason: Using his status as the child of Cher and Sony Bono to make a very public display of gender identity change, including writing a book, and starring in the Emmy-nominated documentary "Becoming Chaz."
But the network is being coy about the gender identity issue, as evidenced by the confusing segment with "ABC News Consultant" and Chaz's representative Howard Bragman on ABC's "Good Morning America."
The Hollywood Reporter highlighted the video where Bragman, a celebrity publicist whom the network also identified as an "ABC News correspondent," appeared on GMA in an interview with host George Stephanopoulos on Sept 6 to discuss varied reaction to the controversy of Chaz's selection to "Dancing with the Stars." "You know we expected there to be some controversy; I think the level of controversy has surprised all of us, but Chaz has really taken it well," Bragman said.
But that doesn't square with what he said just seconds later. "We're not naive to the fact that when Chaz goes out there, that there's a political statement being made," Bragman stated. So putting Chaz out there in the midst of family-friendly primetime viewing was admittedly "a political statement," but Bragman was "surprised" at the level of controversy?
Bragman then stated, "Chaz is going to change hearts and minds and really advance this discussion." Stephanopoulos asked if that was indeed Chaz's motive for joining the show, to which Bragman responded that Chaz just wanted to "have some fun."
But Chaz, Bragman's own client, was shocked at the outcry, and said he is "just a regular guy." He told "Good Morning America" on Sept 2, "I think it's a much bigger deal to everyone else than it is to me… All these ideas that children shouldn't watch me, I'm going to be confusing, all this stuff, it's crazy." It's "crazy" that a transgender "political" prop appearing in primetime would create controversy?
The three minute, 30 second segment featuring Bragman included his claim that those opposed to ABC's decision to host Chaz are "hate groups." Only 28 seconds were given to "the opposition," and that was an email Stephanopoulos read from the OneMillionMoms.com group, which asked its members to boycott the show.
"… I strongly encourage ABC network to reconsider their celebrity casting. ABC has crossed the line in pushing their LGBT agenda into what some families would consider safe entertainment" the email read. Stephanopoulos asked Bragman to respond.
That mildly worded objection was "hate speech" to Bragman's ears.
"You know what, One Million Moms is a part of the American Family Association, which is considered a hate group by many. There's a lot of people who put their hate opinions on email and the vast majority of it is anonymous, George," Bragman said.
To Stephanopoulos's credit, he objected, saying, "Well Howard you call it a hate group but they're not being anonymous here, they're very open about their views."
Bragman was undeterred "One of the ways that right wing groups have kept the LGBT civil rights movement down is by keeping us invisible."
ABC and the Left want it both ways. It's hard to see how dismissing concerned parents as a "hate group" and trying to make them as "invisible" as he maintains the LGBT movement has been, will "advance this discussion."
But Bragman is a committed gay agenda activist and left-winger. He attacked Michele Bachmann on August 10, 2011, on "The Joy Behar Show" saying her Newsweek cover looked "like Close Encounters." He also hoped "there's a special place in Hell for Ken Mehlman," saying he was "as good as a Jew that collaborated with the Nazis." Mehlman was the former head of the GOP National Committee and head of Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, who came out of the closet in August 2010.
Bragman's logic: You can be gay, just don't work for a Republican. You can be part of the "discussion" about gender identity, but your opposing view is hate speech.
For ABC, its use of Bragman as a consultant and transgender advocate is troubling. In addition, the news side has been promoting a reality TV show also broadcast on its own network.
The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics takes a dim view of such matters. Journalists are urged to "act independently" and "be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know." In addition, they should:
- "Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived."
- "Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility."
- "Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage."