This week blogger Greg Kimball of Knowthyneighbor unearthed a troubling discovery about the nationally syndicated Clear Channel radio program, McAllister Live, a show that airs on 160 stations across the country.
He found out that the youth centered advice program, hosted by Dawson McAllister, doled out highly problematic off air advice to teens who are trying to come to grips with being gay:
This past Sunday, I was listening to the show when I began to wonder how they would react to a teenage boy questioning his sexuality. I decided to call the Hopeline and ask. On the automated menu, it stated that I had to be between the ages of 13 and 29. I thought it curious that the show could speak with children that young. Upon confirming that I was of said age, I was presented with the option to speak with either a trained Hopeline representative or Dawson McAllister. Because I knew I would never get through to McAllister, I opted to speak to a representative.
Pretending to be a 16 year old boy (I am really 22), I told him that I had recently begun to question my sexuality and that I thought I might be gay. The first thing he told me (which he told me several times throughout our conversation) is that they get a ton of calls like this.
He then asked if I had been raised religiously. I told him no, and that is where things began to explode. He told me that it is common for "children raised with no God to question their sexuality." He went on to say that "if I embraced God, I could be cured." He continued, comparing homosexuality to "alcoholism or pornography or drug addiction." He said that"homosexuality was not natural."
He then quoted several Bible verses, saying that homosexuality was just as bad as "adultery, theft, or murder." He agreed that I was "broken and needed to be cured." This conversation lasted for 20 minutes. When I couldn't take any more, I thanked him for his time and hung up on him while he said that he would be praying for me.
After calming down, I called again, hoping to get a different representative. I had to know if this was just one person or if this is what the radio show and the Hopeline believed. Thankfully I did get a different representative. Still posing as a 16 year old boy questioning his sexuality, I told him about the conversation I just had and that I was frightened because I didn't want to go to Hell. He confirmed that the Hopeline gets many calls like that and went on to refer me to the Exodus International.
GLAAD received several reports about this disturbing story and reached out to executives at Clear Channel to voice our concerns. We reminded the company that its corporate diversity policies were in direct conflict with the dangerous anti-gay information McAllister Live representatives were handing out.
Kimball's blog also prompted concerned members of the LGBT community to generate a petition targeting Clear Channel executives.
Clear Channel listened. On Thursday afternoon Clear Channel Chief Communications Officer Lisa Dollinger called GLAAD to let us know she had news about a resolution to this matter, passing along this statement:
Clear Channel Statement Regarding Listener Comments About Dawson McAllister Live and Hopeline:
We appreciate the efforts of all who shared their thoughts about recent reports concerning The Dawson McAllister Live program and the Hopeline call-in service administered by the Dawson McAllister Association. Feedback from our listeners and our communities is very important to us, and we welcome the opportunity to provide an update on developments regarding this matter.
Although Clear Channel, its Premiere Radio Networks and its radio stations are not involved in the operation of the Hopeline or the Association, we were concerned about how listener calls to the Hopeline that discussed sexuality were addressed and referrals callers were given to third parties. Clear Channel has a history of making significant commitments to diversity within our own company, and has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign for its policies regarding GLBT employees and business partners. After looking into this matter, we expressed to the producers of Dawson McAllister Live that Clear Channel listeners who call the Hopeline be treated in a manner consistent with our corporate commitments to diversity. As a result of those discussions, the Dawson McAllister Association has reviewed its training for Hopeline volunteers and will remove the Exodus organization from its referral system and remove links to Exodus from its website.
As a broadcaster, Clear Channel is committed to providing our listeners with access to a broad range of opinion and commentary, at that same time that we adhere to the highest standards as a responsible corporate citizen in our communities. We trust this clarifies our efforts to keep those principles in balance.
GLAAD thanks Clear Channel for addressing this issue and reiterating its committment to diversity.
While this is good news, it is still troubling that it was allowed to happen in the first place. It's upsetting to think of all the other LGBT youth who may have been directed to so-called "ex-gay" programs and told such dangerous things about being gay. Clear Channel needs to take a serious look at that lapse.
We will closely monitor this program moving forward, along with other Clear Channel shows, to ensure these kinds of problems cease. If GLAAD finds a pattern we'll be looking at not only holding Clear Channel accountable but its advertisers as well.