Public Radio Host Uses Penn State Case to Debate Gays' Fitness as Parents

On today's edition of nationally syndicated Public Radio International program To The Point, host Warren Olney chose to tackle the Penn State child rape scandal by devoting an entire show to the subject of whether or not gay and lesbian couples would make fit foster and adoptive parents.

What's the connection? The fact that Jerry Sandusky had "adopted many children and took in foster children" over the years. (Listen to it here, starting at 29 minutes.)

Right off the bat, this topic made me feel incredibly uneasy, for obvious reasons. Linking pedophilia to homosexuality is a tried-and-true tactic of bigots, just one example in a long line of history's unliked minorities being stereotyped as representing a threat to the majority's most vulnerable members. That the show spun the question in gays and lesbians' favor — i.e., "Shouldn't we reexamine attitudes towards allowing homosexuals access to children, seeing as how ‘macho' [and Olney did use that word] Sandusky wound up defying stereotypes and raped them anyway?" — didn't really help matters. For starters, what does Sandusky's "macho-ness" have to do with the fact that he is a child predator? Where are these ridiculous "connections" being defined, except in Olney's own mind? That the debate was being had at all — and To The Point prides itself, to a fault, in offering ample airtime for every side of an "issue" to make its case — made it offensive.

The show began with a gay parent from L.A. who spoke for about a minute about how stringent the interviewing process was before he and his partner were allowed to adopt a daughter. Then Olney introduced Jerry Cox, president of Arkansas' Family Council, a conservative group that unsuccessfully petitioned the state to pass a law that would prevent any child in the system from entering a foster home unless it was headed by "a married man and woman." The state Supreme Court shot it down.

Olney gave Cox several minutes to spew his bigoted views, on PRI airwaves, uninterrupted.

Here are some of them:

"The gold standard is that the best place for a child to grow up is in a stable home with a loving mother and father. Our position is that if the state is going to take children into custody, it ought to put children in the best homes possible...These children have been damaged, and need a stable home more than any child out there. What does the research and common sense show? You're going to put them in a home with a loving mother and father."

"I find it interesting that we talk about the Penn State situation, and then when we talk about people who claim to have these rights to adopt or foster; in both cases, the children's rights get put in second place. If you give the rights to the adults, the children will be compromised."

[On whether or not loving same-sex-parents homes might be preferable to being trapped in the system:] "If those are the only two choices —child be institutionalized or in a same-sex home — I would like to challenge this and say, maybe the state can do better than that. I blame the state for that. These children need a place to recover."

This entire broadcast was utterly worthless, embarrassing, and completely unacceptable. Olney and PRI owe their listeners an apology.

UPDATE: Olney has posted a clarification:

Thank you for all the feedback. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding of today's "To the Point." We had no intention of confusing the issues of child abuse and same-sex adoption. We apologize to anyone who drew that conclusion.

So, basically, Olney has issued a non-apology apology to anyone who mistakenly thought that a show about child abuse/same-sex adoption was actually a show about child abuse and same-sex adoption. I guess there's a very fine distinguishing line there that I'm failing to see.

GLAAD has released a statement condemning the broadcast, calling it "dangerous journalism." They've demanded that Olney apologize and "tell his listeners the unequivocal truth about gay and lesbian families." They are also calling on PRI and KCRW, the L.A.-based station that produces Olney's show, to pull the episode from the show's website.

On Saturday morning, GLAAD posted this comment on the To The Point Facebook page:

The host of KCRW's To The Point announced he will apologize on-air Monday. He should also explain why his anti-gay guest was given a platform to spread misinformation about gay and lesbian families.

Hopefully this time it will be an actual apology, and that Olney will think twice in the future about covering LGBT issues in such an irresponsible and defamatory way. [To The Point/Facebook]

[Photo of Olney, left, via Getty Images. Photo of Cox, right, via AP]