Last evening, former Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell drew media attention when she abruptly ended an interview with Piers Morgan after he asked her about her views on marriage equality. She stated that he was being “a little rude” and that she did not think it was a “relevant” topic for discussion.
O’Donnell appeared on the August 17 segment of “Piers Morgan Tonight” to talk about her new book, Troublemaker. But she became increasingly upset as Morgan addressed certain parts of it:
Morgan: “I’m curious about whether you support gay marriage.”
O’Donnell: “You’re getting… you’re border line being a little bit rude, you know? I obviously want to talk about the issues that I chose to talk about in the book.”
M: “Do you answer that question in the book?”
O: “I talk about my religious beliefs, yeah, I absolutely do.”
M: “Do you talk about gay marriage in the book?”
O: “What relevance is that right now? Is there a piece of legislation…? I mean, I shouldn’t be voting on anything…”
M: “It’s obviously, as you know—because of Michele Bachmann’s views and others—it’s obviously a highly contentious political issue. I’m just curious what your view is. You keep saying it’s in the book, so I’m bemused as to why you wouldn’t just say it in an interview.”
O: “Because I don’t think it’s relevant. It’s not a topic that I choose to embrace, it’s not what I’m championing right now.”
O’Donnell explained that she wants to promote an “inspirational story” for the Tea Party, in a book that discusses “policies that are mostly fiscal, mostly constitutional.” She again told Morgan that he was being rude.
“I’m just asking you questions based on your own public statements, and now what you’ve written in your own book. It’s hardly rude to ask you that, surely,” Morgan tried to reason. O’Donnell proceeded to dramatically cut Morgan off and terminate the conversation, adding that she had agreed to be late for a meeting with the Republican Women’s Club so she could “endure a rude talk show host.”
O’Donnell has previously received criticism for her public stances against equality for LGBT people, including her outspoken opposition to marriage equality during her failed 2010 Senate campaign. (One of her campaign’s senior aides, the Rev. Jason McGuire, was the former executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, which called for Christian activists to “pray” for their state Senators to oppose marriage equality legislation.) She has also said that gay and lesbian people suffer from an “identity disorder” and has called being gay or lesbian a “deviant sexual orientation.”
Still, even people who have proudly held anti-LGBT viewpoints in the past are becoming more wary of espousing negative attitudes about the LGBT community in front of a national audience whose opinion is constantly evolving, especially regarding marriage equality. Polls show a “rapid bipartisan acceleration in public support” for marriage equality across almost all demographics, including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, said reports at the end of July. “America’s elected officials are lagging behind the American people, a majority of whom have opened their hearts and changed their minds and now support the freedom to marry with accelerating momentum,” said Evan Wolfson, President of Freedom to Marry, about this data.
Various media agree that Morgan was not at all unreasonable in his line of questioning. Huffington Post writer Jerry Weissman points out that Morgan was correct in “having called Ms. O’Donnell on the gap between writing about her position and discussing it on air. By accepting an appearance to be interviewed, she is fair game and has to be prepared for all manner of questions.” Time blogger James Poniewozik explains, “I would hope that everyone who reads this blog realizes that the obligation of a press interviewer is not to ask you only those questions you want to be asked … An interviewer does not work for the person he or she is interviewing. If O’Donnell wants to say ‘no comment,’ fine, but I don’t see the argument that her beliefs on a political issue are irrelevant,” since the public knows her as a former political candidate.
Morgan later noted that it was the first time a guest had walked out in 25 years of interviews. The incident resembles an interview between former Miss California Carrie Prejean in 2009 with TV show host Larry King, in which King asked her about a settlement she made with pageant organizers regarding a religious discrimination lawsuit. Prejean declared that his questions were “inappropriate” and removed her microphone, refusing to answer anything else.
GLAAD encourages media to continue elevating this story and to emphasize the importance of transparency and honesty by high-profile figures when discussing issues that affect the LGBT community.