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CBS News Falls Short in Publishing Rumors About Potential Supreme Court Nominee

By GLAAD |
April 16, 2010

CBS News made a significant misstep this week in publishing a blog by Ben Domenech that speculated about the sexual orientation of potential Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan.

Washington Post media writer and host of CNN's Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz, offered readers a comprehensive description of the ordeal in his column today.

Kurtz column reports:

"Ben Domenech, a former Bush administration aide and Republican Senate staffer, wrote that President Obama would 'please' much of his base by picking the 'first openly gay justice.' An administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters, said Kagan is not a lesbian."

The Human Rights Campaign strongly denounced the overall rumors circulating about Kagan as reported  in a blog post by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG):

"In its first entree into the upcoming Supreme Court nomination process, the group Human Rights Campaign blasted the increasingly public discussion of Kagan's sexuality, calling it a play 'straight out the right-wing playbook.'

"Even though the majority of Americans couldn't care less about a nominee's sexual orientation, the far right will continue to be shameless with their whisper campaigns to drum up their base and raise money off of prejudice," Michael Cole, a spokesperson for the group emailed, in a statement to the Huffington Post."

PFLAG spokeswoman Jean-Marie Navetta, also denounced the speculation:

"People love taking part in rumors like this, whether they're gay or not, because it implies that there's some sort of scandal going on there. And the bottom line is, it doesn't matter and it shouldn't matter," she said. "But we hear it all the time... it's a gossip point for people. And I think it could certainly be used, or be perceived to be used by some as a way to discredit [Kagan], even though we all know that it does not matter and it should not matter."

And GLAAD’s Senior Director of Media Programs, Rashad Robinson weighed in with sharp criticism for CBS:

"CBS News should know better than to be trading in gossip and speculation about a person’s sexual orientation. This is the kind of thing we’d expect to see in the tabloids, not in a credible news outlet.  We’ve reached out to CBS to express our concerns about the fact that they would allow their brand and one of their platforms to be used in this way.”

Howard Kurtz reported that CBS eventually pulled the blog following the wide condemnation.

"The network deleted the posting Thursday night after Domenech said he was merely repeating a rumor. The flare-up underscores how quickly the battle over a Supreme Court nominee -- or even a potential nominee -- can turn searingly personal. Most major news organizations have policies against 'outing' gays or reporting on the sex lives of public officials unless they are related to their public duties."

GLAAD urges all media outlets to avoid perpetuating the speculation and gossip around this story.  Journalists have a responsibility to their audiences to report factual information, not amplify unsubstantiated rumors.

If you see similar reporting that misses the mark please contact GLAAD at nationalnews@glaad.org.



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