Gay advertising campaign draws conservatives' wrath Robertson's network threatens legal action

November 12, 1995|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

If a new television campaign by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays had had only its dramatic scenes -- a teen-age girl contemplating suicide with a handgun and a young man being beaten by a gang as the attackers shout slurs -- it would have been controversial enough.

But because these scenes are interspersed with clips of the Rev. Pat Robertson and other conservatives deploring homosexuality, the campaign has drawn the wrath of Mr. Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, which is threatening legal action against stations that broadcast the two 30-second advertisements.

The point of the campaign, which began Wednesday, is that anti-gay rhetoric bears some relation to assaults against homosexuals and to suicides among lesbian and gay youth.

"We wanted to say, 'Wake up and join us in opposing hate speech,' " said Mitzi Henderson of Menlo Park, Calif., president of the board of the nationwide parents group, which is known as P-Flag.

But on the day the campaign began, the associate general counsel of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Bruce Hausknecht, wrote an open letter addressed to "all general managers" in which he declared:

"The spots contain defamatory material and cast Pat Robertson and CBN in a false light by implying that Pat advocates/promotes heinous crimes against gays or directly caused the suicide of one or more homosexual persons. This is outrageously false and severely damaging to the reputation of Dr. Robertson and this ministry."

Mr. Hausknecht warned that if the advertisements were televised, the Christian Broadcasting Network would "immediately seek judicial redress against your station," including injunctions and monetary damages.

As a result, P-Flag officials said, the campaign has been rejected by eight stations in Houston and Atlanta, and by the Cable News Network. Two stations and two cable companies in Tulsa and Washington have accepted the advertisement that shows a beating. No station or cable company has accepted the suicide scene.

At CNN, the vice president for public relations, Steve Haworth, said the advertisement had been tentatively accepted for "Larry King Live" until it was reviewed by a senior corporate lawyer, whom Mr. Haworth did not identify.

"He maintained that the message was overly ambiguous," Mr. Haworth said, "and did not meet our standards for advocacy advertising."

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