GLAAD’s Barrios Critiqued for FCC Letters
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has been criticized in the past for fighting public relations battles that seem strange or ill chosen.
But now there’s a new imbroglio looming over the media watchdog, which seeks to promote positive depictions of GLBTs in the press, on television, in the movies, and elsewhere. The president of the group, former Massachusetts State Sen. Jarrett Barrios, suffered questions about his leadership ability in the wake of a Jan. 4, 2010, letter to the FCC endorsing a merger between two telecommunications giants, AT&T and T-Mobile.
Barrios had written to the FCC subsequently, in a missive dated Jan. 15. 2010, to claim that the earlier letter had "been submitted under my name and title without my permission," and had gone on to claim, "The signature is not in my hand. I have never seen this letter and it is not my signature."
Barrios later offered an alternate explanation, saying that the first letter had been the result of an "administrative error" in which he and his secretary had failed to communicate effectively with one another.
"Our focus at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is promoting fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media, particularly by eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation," the Jan. 4 letter to the FCC read in part, reported The Bilerico Project on June 10.
"GLAAD has been called one of the most successful minority organizations influencing the media for inclusion -- and a large part of that is due to the accessible and instant Internet," the letter continued. "GLAAD depends on the Internet to disseminate information, rally our community and encourage action.
"To this end, GLAAD encourages the FCC to prioritize expanding broadband connectivity to every corner of this country and to every American so that we -- and other minority groups -- can continue our pursuit of inclusion and have our voices heard.
"As you continue your review of net neutrality, please remember that the Internet provides an open space and forum for all and it IS critical that we make it more accessible, not less."
Towleroad outlined the complicated story behind the letters in a June 10 article, recounting how the gay media and the mainstream media alike had taken note of the original letter to the FCC and remarking on the ambiguous nature of its message, which superficially appeared to argue for "net neutrality," but which, it seemed, was actually making a case against it.
Towleroad also noted -- as did other sources from which it drew its article -- that AT&T has provided financial support to GLAAD.
A few days before the Towleroad article, on June 4, Queerty posted an article explaining, in brief, what "net neutrality" is: "[T]he principle stating that all information on the web should get delivered at the same speed, not at different speeds and prices depending on who owns the service."
In other words, without net neutrality, large corporate interests could exert undue influence over what is readily accessible online -- and what is essentially relegated to hard-to-reach status.
Towleroad referred to accusations that came to light on Michelangelo Signorile’s radio show. A former member of GLAAD’s board, Laurie Perper, reportedly made statements to the effect that Barrios, already embattled by discontent over his stewardship of GLAAD, had attempted to deflect additional criticism from himself in the wake of the original letter to the FCC by asserting that a secretary had written it using GLAAD letterhead, and then put Barrios’ name to the letter, including his signature.