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CNN Misses the Mark in Interview with So-Called "Ex-Gay" Activist Richard Cohen

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By GLAAD |
April 6, 2010

In an attempt to discuss efforts to repeal an outdated law in California requiring the State Department of Mental Health to conduct research into the "causes" and "cures" of being gay, CNN took the irresponsible step of allowing the unlicensed, widely discredited, so-called "ex-gay" activist, Richard Cohen, onto the network's airwaves to promote the idea that gay people can be turned straight.

CNN Host Kyra Phillips paired Cohen with California Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal in a "debate" of sorts.  Lowenthal is working to repeal the outdated law in California and penned on op-ed on the topic in yesterday's edition of The Los Angeles Times, titled, "'Cure Gays? No, Fix the Law."

And while Phillips' own blog also asks the question, "Are you surprised a law like this exists in 2010," the airtime afforded Cohen to tout "curing" gay people, while offering no information about the harms caused by such programs is unacceptable.  As GLAAD has noted  in our publication, Unmasking So-Called Ex-Gay Activists, "The nation's leading medical and mental health authorities have uniformly dismissed the idea that being gay is something to be 'treated.'"

Here's a recent statement from the American Psychological Association:

“For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure. The APA’s concern about the position’s espoused by NARTH (The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) and so-called conversion therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

But even with this information widely available to media professionals, CNN's Phillips failed to bring this to light while questioning Cohen.  CNN's graphics even described Cohen as a "Psychotherapist, educator and expert in the field of sexual reorientation."  Phillips and CNN also failed to note that Cohen was permanently expelled in 2002 from the American Counseling Association, for serious multiple violations of the ethical code.

Bottom line:  CNN needs to do better.  Our Senior Director of Programs, Rashad Robinson blogged about another problematic report from last week related to the Catholic Church abuse crisis.

We have spoken extensively to key producers and publicity representatives at the network this afternoon and they indicate that they understand the seriousness of our complaints.  They are scheduling a meeting with GLAAD and key bookers at CNN so that this type of mishap can be avoided moving forward. In the meantime we'll be keeping a close eye on future reporting and calling on our members to speak out about faulty reports.

Please contact CNN Newsroom here and voice your concerns about the platform extended to the discredited Richard Cohen and CNN's failure to consult credible scientific authorities before proceeding with this report.

And be sure to contact nationalnews@glaad.org if you see coverage on any mainstream media outlets that misses the mark.


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