Prizm News / September 14, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
Leaders of 10 LGBTQ groups have sent a letter to WSYX-TV, the station’s owner and Marshall McPeek about anti-trans remarks.
By Bob Vitale
Ten Ohio LGBTQ organizations today issued “a call for accountability, education and action” to a Columbus TV station, its parent company and the local meteorologist whose remarks at an LGBTQ journalists’ convention last weekend angered many in the community.
The group denounced openly gay chief meteorologist Marshall McPeek’s welcome to “ladies and gentlemen, things and its” at a gathering in Palm Springs, Calif., last weekend of the Association of LGBTQ Journalists. But instead of calling on Sinclair Broadcasting and WSYX-TV to fire him, the groups’ leaders instead “be a catalyst for meaningful change” by using their platforms to educate viewers about issues of oppression and violence against trans people.
The LGBT groups also suggested cultural competency training for station staff.
Although a number of the groups issued their own statements this week denouncing McPeek’s remarks, they said their joint effort was meant to share collective concerns about “a climate that has allowed marginalized communities to be harmed with impunity.”
“McPeek’s words are unacceptable under any circumstances and reflect poorly on the good people of Columbus, a city that is working hard toward better visibility, connection, and inclusion for all,” they said in the letter. “We will not allow our great city to stand silent in the face of such offensive bigotry. Only when we face the ugliness and strive to be better will we progress as a society.”
WSYX General Manager Tony D’Angelo issued a statement on Monday that called McPeek’s comments “hurtful and offensive“ and not a reflection of Sinclair’s values.
“We are an inclusive workplace that prides itself on all employees feeling comfortable and welcome,” he said. “Sinclair has supported the important work of NLGJA and its member journalists and we were saddened by his comments.”
D’Angelo told Prizm this afternoon that he already has spoken to Equitas Health staff and others in the LGBTQ community about supplementing the station’s ongoing staff training. He said he’s “very open” to the group’s idea of further news coverage and programming about trans and LGBTQ issues.
McPeek issued an apology on Wednesday to “our global LGBTQ community” and promised to listen and learn from his error. He asked the community to “allow me to earn your forgiveness.”
The LGBTQ groups’s letter today suggested that WSYX host and broadcast a town hall on oppression and violence that would touch on the impact of the words people choose. The group also suggested that the station spotlight the high murder rate against transgender people.
Debé Turnbull, who signed the letter to WSYX, Sinclair and McPeek as president of the board of trustees for the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, said the letter came from discussions at a meeting of Columbus’ LGBTQ organization leaders on Tuesday. The group meets every month.
“When someone from our own community does not see the real harm in a statement like that, how do we expect the greater community to understand?” Turnbull said. “A lot of straight people take their cues from our behavior, so what does that say? We wanted accountability, but we need better education and understanding, too. Instead of demanding his resignation, we decided to take this chance to let Marshall and ABC 6 partner with the LGBTQ+ community and do some good.”
The letter was signed by board chairs and presidents, executive directors, and presidents and CEOs of TransOhio, the Transgender Children’s Legal Defense Fund, Black Out & Proud, BRAVO, Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus, Equality Ohio and the Equality Ohio Education Fund, Equitas Health (which is the parent agency of Prizm), Kaleidoscope Youth Center, PFLAG Columbus, and Stonewall Columbus.
Other organizations, including the Stonewall Democrats of Central Ohio, have since said they support the letter, Turnbull said, but the quick turnaround didn’t fit everyone’s approval processes.
“McPeek’s words were denigrating, hurtful and highly offensive,” the letter reads. “This is not a social gaffe—this is hate speech. Dehumanizing language is abuse and a gateway to further violence. Given the opportunity to speak for the LGBTQ+ community and a platform to do so, McPeek abused that trust. That a member of our community would express such a demeaning sentiment is terribly disappointing and a stark reminder that there is much work to be done.”