Editor's Note:R. Zeke Fread, has been a GLBT Rights Grassroots Activist for past 20 years. The Director of Pride Tampa Bay, Zeke has organized local actions for ImpACT Florida, Join the Impact, Day of Decision, Don't Amend and for many other local and national GLBT Rights Organizations.
The powers that be at WFLA totally disregarded thousands of calls, faxes and emails sent by viewers and concerned citizens, pleading with them not to air this anti-gay program. Their so-called "business decision" sickened the GLBT community, our Allies and all Fair-Minded Citizens. Media General, owner of WFLA Channel 8, reportedly received $35,000 to air the despicable program, which was nothing more than an hour long diatribe of deceit, blatant lies, misinformation and hateful propaganda directed at GLBT's, packaged as infomercial.
When contacted, WFLA's Manager John Scheuler stated "they usually don't screen for content, but that they didn't think this program was hateful or vitriolic." He added that:
those who chose the homosexual lifestyle might be upset by the strident tone.
When we learned the President of Media General would be at the Tampa station July 15th, we felt this would be an opportune time to express our disgust by holding a press conference and protest in front of WFLA's station. Pride Tampa Bay joined with Securing Our Children's Rights, Equality Florida, Impact Florida, Boycott WFLA Ch 8 Facebook Group, Join the Impact, Outings & Adventures, and many other local GLBT and Straight fair-minded community organizations who mobilized their members.
At 5:00 P.M., over 300 people, including Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder and Lynn Mulder, father of murdered gay son Ryan Keith Skipper, gathered in front of WFLA.
The crowds wore t-shirts reading News Channel H8 and held signs with similar messages, rainbow flags waving. We marched from the station to a nearby street corner leading out of downtown Tampa. We were greeted by hundreds motorists car horns blearing in support, waves and thumbs-up.
On the street corner, with bull-horn in hand, Nadine Smith (Executive Director of Equality Florida), Carrie West (President of Gaybor Business District Coalition), Lynn Mulder (Ryan's Skippers father), Cathy James (Securing Our Children's Rights) and myself held our press conference.
Our message was clear: Media General and WFLA's decision to air the anti-gay program Speechless was nothing less than reprehensible and unacceptable. Media General and WFLA must issue an immediate apology. Our words were received by deafening cheers and applause of support from protesters.
We're also asking Media General donate the $35,000 received to a GLBT Youth or Anti-GLBT hate organization. And lastly, air a program, at no charge, to refute and balance the GLBT hate propaganda contained in "Speechless: Silencing the Christians."
This is just our first action, we continue to strategize on what our next move will be. I won't go into further detail on this, except to say we have no plans to go away and allow let this horrific attack on our community go unanswered.
Our actions are not intended to dispute ones freedom of speech, nor are we attacking Christians or their message. This is solely about a business decision made by Media General, which we strongly oppose and are holding them accountable for.