As many of you are aware, the LGBT blogosphere lit up over the weekend with reports of a highly problematic segment that originally aired in mid-October on Texas radio station KLIF 570 AM. After consultation with GLAAD, the host of that segment will soon issue an on-air apology.
In the eight-minute segment, host Chris Krok repeatedly took jabs at Joel Burns, the city councilman from Fort Worth whose emotional and heartfelt "It Gets Better" message has become a YouTube sensation, garnering more than 2.3 million views since the city council meeting on Tuesday, October 12. (GLAAD worked closely with Joel to strengthen and elevate his message by providing media training and pitching his story to national outlets where undoubtedly millions more were exposed to the concrete harms of anti-LGBT bullying.)
KLIF host Chris Krok's opinion of Joel Burns is vastly different from the millions who've come to regard Joel as something of a hero, including the many youth who have reached out to Joel saying that his message saved their lives. One can't watch Joel's YouTube video and doubt its sincerity for even a second, but that didn't stop Krok from saying that Joel shouldn't have shared his story because it was about "me, me, me." (That said most personal stories are by nature personal; Joel's was deeply so. It was Krok's tone, which doubted Joel's sincerity, that was offensive.) Krok went on to poke fun at Joel, making light of his experiences with bullying by mocking Joel - with a fake lisp - saying, "Look at me! I thuffered!" He then goes on to invalidate Joel's long-term relationship with his partner, J.D. Angle, by saying that Joel doesn't have a husband because marriage for gay and lesbian couples isn't legal in Texas. "You're a man. You do not have a husband," said Krok.
On behalf of Joel and the many others whose life stories intersect with his, GLAAD made a phone call this afternoon to Jeff Catlin, the operations manager for Cumulus Media Dallas, KLIF's parent company. The conversation was a productive one; Catlin both understands and shares our concern. As the person who oversees KLIF, Catlin acknowledged that he has the "responsibility to be responsible" for what airs on the station.
Without going into detail, Catlin said that he spoke with Krok and that he was disciplined shortly after the segment aired. He also pointed out that Krok has not spoken about this since then.
After speaking with GLAAD, Catlin also realizes the need to issue some sort of on-air apology. He wants Krok (who's out of the office until tomorrow) to be "part of the solution." To that end GLAAD, Catlin and Krok will meet on Wednesday morning to discuss what such a solution will look like. We'll be certain to let you know in advance so you can be sure to tune-in.
To reiterate a point we’ve been making a lot lately: reputable media outlets are obligated to be responsible for the words and images they present on their airwaves. Never has this been more important than in light of recent teen suicides, all the result of anti-LGBT bullying. Freedom of speech does not mean that one is free from the consequences of that speech, especially when one’s words could potentially cause harm to someone. Such was the case with Krok’s remarks about Joel Burns. Though the KLIF segment never should have aired in the manner it did, GLAAD appreciates that station management realizes the need to issue a public apology. Hopefully our outreach this time around will prevent such a segment from airing in the future.