Trifecta of Distortion: Kathy Griffin, Wanda Sykes, Lance Bass Blame Conservatives for Gay Teen Suicides
Are religious leaders, conservative activists, and Jim DeMint responsible for the deaths of gay teenagers? That's the impression left by Kathy Griffin, Wanda Sykes, and Lance Bass, in an extensive interview on the October 4 "Larry King Live."
Focusing on the slew of gay teens who have committed suicide in the past week as a result of bullying, the panel of gay rights activists spewed offensive bile toward preachers of traditional social values.
"The blood is on their hands," decried Griffin, referring to the bullies who abused the gay teenagers, and religious leaders and political figures who oppose gay marriage and the repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
Earlier in the show, Griffin implored viewers to see her ludicrous connection between conservative social policy and gay teen suicide:
Look, let's cut the crap. I think that the way that we had trickle-down economics in the 80s, this is trickle down homophobia. And I really want people to connect the dots. And that's why I believe there's a connection between Prop 8, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and now the string of teen suicides. It's almost sanctioned to bully gay people and treat them as second-class citizens.
After Griffin claimed that "there's a lot of very right-wing conservative people that absolutely sanction this behavior," King inquired: "Wait, you're not saying that this religious person would say it's okay to bully a gay person?"
"Have you talked to Jim DeMint today?" retorted Griffin.
Griffin's broad-sweeping denunciation of conservatives was just the beginning. Echoing the Bravo star, Sykes claimed that religious leaders who "preach that homophobia is wrong...cause harm to the gay and lesbian community." In context, it can be assumed Sykes meant that preaching homosexuality is wrong. Later in the show, Sykes lectured religious leaders again: "They don't teach the love part [of the Bible]. I'll put it that way. They don't teach the love part enough. And it's all driven on by fear."
Rounding out the trifecta of temerity, Bass implied that advancing liberal social causes can stymie bullying: "And it goes back to our leaders, I think. You know, once we finally get rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, when everyone is equal and being able to get married, that's what's teaching our younger generation, you know, what is right and what is wrong."
King exerted very little effort to defend conservatives against the panel's barrage of smears and distortion. In fact, the veteran CNN anchor's mentions of Eddie Long, the Atlanta preacher accused of sexual misconduct with young men, and Boyd Packer, a high-ranking Mormon official who denounced homosexuality, only encouraged the left-wing panel's relentless vitriol.
Transcripts of the relevant portions of the program can be found below:
Larry King Live
October 4, 2010
9:00 p.m. EDT
LARRY KING: Tonight, bullying. It led five young men in the span of one week to commit suicide, because they were taunted and tormented for being gay. Kathy Griffin, Wanda Sykes, Tim Gunn, Lance Bass, and Nate Berkus are here with their stories of personal pain and heartache and the drastic action one of them considered as his only escape. Next on Larry King Live. Good evening. Wanda Sykes is an openly gay comedian. She performs October 15th and 16th at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Kathy Griffin is a gay activist, comedian and actress, the star of Bravo's "My life on the D-List." Tim Gunn stars in "Project Runway." Tim is gay. And he attempted suicide at age 17. And Lance Bass, openly gay, performer, former performer with N Sync. He says, get this, that in high school he made fun of gay kids to hide his own secret. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual parents - their peers, rather. And the Trevor Project staffs a national 24-hour toll- free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth. Just remember this. 866-4U-TREVOR. 866-4U-TREVOR. Why are they bullied? Why are gay people bullied? For what purpose?
WANDA SYKES, comedian: For the purpose?
KING: I mean, why would someone bully someone because they're gay?
SYKES: I think it stems with society. I mean, when society as a whole has told - has basically told the kids that it's okay, that we're a group that you can pick on, that you that don't have to treat as equal. I mean, we see that in, you know, in the laws and everything else that's out here, in the churches that they preach that homophobia is wrong. You pretty much have given kids permission to disrespect and, you know, and to cause harm to the gay and lesbian community.
KING: Tim, you see that as a good reason?
TIM GUNN, Bravo host: Well, Larry, I think that it's also fear-related, fear of the unknown. It stems from insecurities. I believe that there are many issues around this. I also want to add when Wanda cites the churches, the human rights campaign has a statistic, which is that there are still 33 states in this nation where one can be fired for being gay. So that puts gay people in the same category as those who are committing heinous crimes. And what does that really mean? It's a conundrum for me.
KING: Do you think, Kathy, that society, heterosexual society looks the other way?
KATHY GRIFFIN, comedian: Look, let's cut the crap. I think that the way that we had trickle-down economics in the '80s, this is trickle down homophobia. And I really want people to connect the dots. And that's why I believe there's a connection between Prop 8, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and now the string of teen suicides. It's almost sanctioned to bully gay people and treat them as second-class citizens. And I get very nervous when the parents of these so-called bullies defend them saying, oh, kids will be kids, when you find out that the teen suicide rate is four times higher for a gay person. Think about how tragic suicide is, period. But why would you want to make it four times higher? And for what? These kids are just being themselves.
KING: Now Lance?
GRIFFIN: So I think a lot of the so-called religious leaders play into it. And the politicians certainly aren't doing enough. There's a lot of very right-wing conservative people that absolutely sanction this behavior. And there's a lot you can do to finally put a stop to it.
KING: Wait, you're not saying that this religious person would say it's okay to bully a gay person?
GRIFFIN: Really? Have you talked to Jim DeMint today? I mean, there's a-
KING: And he would say it's okay to bully someone?
GRIFFIN: He doesn't think there should be gay teachers. So yeah, what I'm saying is that - when I say so-called religious leaders, I mean, because not of course all religion is bad, but there are a lot of people under the umbrella of I'm a religious leader or gee, I don't mind gay people, I just don't want them in my church, I just don't think they should marry, I don't think they should serve openly. I did an episode of "My Life on the D-List," where I talked to a gay serviceman who said he was in the barracks with his pal in Iraq, who said you know what we should do? We should go hang a fag from a tree outside. He thought that was his friend. He was serving in Iraq. So this is all kind of sanctioned quietly at is this point.
9:12 p.m. EDT
KING: Yes. Lance, I don't know how to relate - I'll start with you and then we'll go around. Boyd Packer, he's I think the second highest leader in the Mormon church. He delivered a sermon called "Same-sex Attraction," and he called it impure and unnatural and against God's law and nature. And apparently, he said that after learning of some of these suicides. Now, I know many, many Mormons. I'm married to a Mormon. They're some of the most wonderful people I know. I've never seen them say prejudiced things. Do you think those kind of things spoken from their own bible could lead to violence?
BASS: I mean, it does. You know, it's very confusing. I grew up in the bible belt, you know, here in America. And you know, I grew up Southern Baptist. And you know, it's very scary as a kid, because you're always taught, you know, that oh, gay is wrong, you're going to hell. So you know, you're basically scared into believing those thoughts. And it's all what you're taught. You know, these kids don't learn it themselves. It's all what they're taught from the older generations, your older brothers, your sisters, your parents. It's passed down generation to generation. You know, those thoughts.
KING: But they also teach, Wanda, love the sinner, hate the sin.
SYKES: They don't teach that enough. You know. I mean, and it's - they don't teach the love part. I'll put it that way. They don't teach the love part enough. And it's all driven on by fear. You know, it's - and I believe a lot of people - like if it were my own family. You know, I believe that the big problem that my family had with me is that, you know, it's the superstition and it's the fear that if I accept you, then I'm accountable and then I'm going to go to hell, which is - it's crazy.
9:24 p.m. EDT
KING: Lance, 9 out of 10 LGBT students, that's lesbian and gay, bisexual students, experience harassment at school. And over 160,000 kids stay home from school every day, 160,000, for fear of being bullied.
KING: What kind of existence is that?
BASS: It's a terrible one, you know. And it goes back to our leaders, I think. You know, once we finally get rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, when everyone is equal and being able to get married, that's what's teaching our younger generation, you know, what is right and what is wrong. And until that is like - that is done, these kids aren't going to really, you know, respect their own opinions. They're going to be thinking, "oh, this is what the government's telling me to think. And obviously, they're treating us like second-class citizens. So that's how they're going to grow up thinking."
KING: We'll be right back. Don't go away.
9:28 p.m. EDT
King: A memorial was held over the weekend for Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student. He jumped from the George Washington Bridge after a video of him having sex with another male was put on the Internet.
GRIFFIN: Not a video he made himself. That's what's key.
KING: No, of course. Do you think people have any knowledge of what they're doing, what the harm it causes?
GRIFFIN: I'd like to think that they don't at the time. I think a lot of bullies do it because it makes them feel bigger. But I can't imagine someone thinking this person's going to write a simple line that says "jumping off the GW bridge." how can you live with that? And by the way, I would say that the blood is on the hands of several people who have participated in those kinds of bullyings. The blood's on their hands, as well as a lot of our leaders, our so-called leaders.
KING: What do you say to someone who bullies, Wanda?
SYKES: What do you say to someone?
KING: Yes, what do you say to someone?
SYKES: Why? What's the purpose? What do you hope to accomplish? Do you really think that little of yourself that, you know, you need to pump yourself up by being in control trying to ruin someone else? I mean, basically, get a life. Get a life. Try to be, you know - make something of yourself.
-Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.