Throughtout the morning and early afternoon, visitors to the CNN.com homepage were greeted with this question: "Is the surge in gay TV characters 'bad for society'?" The Quick vote question was inspired by a video report which had its own problems.
We then asked ourselves: is the fact that a well-respected, major news organization is asking a question like this "bad for society?" We think so.
And so do the good people at CNN's Standards and Practices, who promptly removed the poll from the main page after we spoke to them, and we thank them for that.
We also voiced our concerns about the report this Quick vote accompanied. Similar to the way the poll refers to the recent increase in gay characters on TV as a "surge" - the report from HLN's Showbiz Tonight continues with war language saying: "Too gay for TV? A brand new controversial battle is on today as more gay characters invade prime time television." The report then goes on to give a troubling amount of airtime to anti-gay activist Dan Gainor from the Culture and Media Institute, who does believe that it's "bad for society" to offer authentic depictions of the lives of LGBT people. He remarked that, "Hollywood has done a great deal of work causing acceptance in American culture for homosexuality."
That's not to say the report was entirely problematic. For one thing, it talked about GLAAD's recent Network Responsibility Index. It also gave voice to actors Chris Colfer, Eric Stonestreet, and Jane Lynch, as well as real-life gay couple Rich Vaughn and Tommy Woelful, who are raising twin two year-olds.
But CNN's offensive poll and its attempts to manufacture controversy by granting a platform to so-called experts like Gainor follows an alarming trend of media outlets creating simplistic, predictable "pro-gay"/"anti-gay" dualisms that do a great disservice to viewers who are seeking information on the diversity of opinion and experience within our community.
We will continue to challenge this type of coverage.