They got to her. On March 1, I broke the story in Salon magazine (www.salon.com/tech/log/ 2000/03/01/drlaura/index.html) that a group of prominent homosexual activists were about to post a Web site (www.stopdrlaura.com) to force Paramount Television to stop the upcoming Dr. Laura TV show, scheduled to begin airing this fall.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger is the successful radio talk-show host (heard locally on KVOR, 1300 AM, 1-4 p.m., Monday through Friday; 1-2 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday) who started out years ago yelling at listeners to take responsibility for their actions and blossomed into a Bible-thumping conservative who uses her radio show as an ugly pulpit. The lecture queen has shown a particular disdain for homosexuals, often referring to them as "biological errors." The evidence was right on her Web site (www.drlaura.com) in transcripts where she condemned the homosexual lifestyle and activism -- that is, the words were there until last week.
Now those pages are blank. On Friday, March 10, all of Dr. Laura's anti-gay, and even unrelated comments about pedophilia, suddenly vanished from her Web site. In its place, an apology of sorts appeared.
"Regrettably, some of the words I've used have hurt some people, and I am sorry for that," she now says on the site. "Words that I have used in a clinical context have been perceived as judgment. They were not meant to characterize homosexual individuals or encourage others to disparage homosexuals."
Clinical? The "biological error" references I saw on the site were in what I'd call an angry and hateful context: She also said homosexuals "undermine civilization." And how often does your doctor use the word "deviant"? Lucky for posterity, many Internet users have printers.
Dr. Laura's site purge came after the gay community mobilized to convince Paramount not to air her upcoming TV show -- kind of an antithesis to the Christian right's Disney boycott a few years back. And her "apology" came days before a massive anti-Dr. Laura protest, organized by the California-based Horizon Foundation and scheduled at the gates of Paramount Television in Los Angeles for March 21.
The gay community didn't start out swinging quite so hard at Dr. Laura. First, GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, at www.glaad.org/) tried to talk to Dr. Laura and to her new TV network about her controversial views, asking for "zero tolerance" of gay and lesbian defamation. After a meeting with the network on Feb. 14, both sides reported a "positive exchange." Meantime, the anti-Dr. Laura momentum kept building, especially in e-mail campaigns and on GLAAD's Web site.
Then on March 1, a group of gay activists -- including John Aravosis of Wired Strategies (www.wiredstrategies.com) in Washington, D.C., who memorialized murdered gay student Matthew Shepard online and fought America Online over the outing of gay sailor Tim McVeigh -- unveiled their latest secret weapon, stopdrlaura.com. The slick site trots out some heavy hitters against Dr. Laura, including Frazier executive producer David Lee, who is gay, and Hatewatch.org's David Goldman who says, "Had similar remarks been made about blacks or Jews, Paramount would never have given her a show."
And former Colorado Congresswoman Pat Schroeder asks: "The pledge of allegiance says, 'with liberty and justice for all.' What part of 'all' is unclear?"
Stopdrlaura.com gives the phone and fax numbers, and e-mail addresses of Paramount Chairman Kerry McKluggage and Co-President Frank Kelly. It is also selling "Are You a Biological Error?" T-shirts. As of this week, Aravosis reports some 3 million hits, and Dr. Laura has hired a crisis-management team. Apparently, the switchboards, cyber and otherwise, at Paramount have been flooded with protests.
Personally, I don't care whether Dr. Laura's show airs or not, but I applaud efforts to expose her views to discussion and criticism. Hate speech is only dangerous when it is quietly conveyed to willing ears without challenge. And I find it amusingly hypocritical that the holier-than-thou head doctor felt the need to censor her own words on the Web. It's one thing to take responsibility for mistakes; it's another to pretend you never made them.