Wednesday, February 08, 2012

NYT = HRC Mouthpiece?

(Screen grab of HRC's site promoting their work with banking titan Lloyd Blankfein.)

This letter was sent to Arthur Brisbane, the public editor for the New York Times. Maybe he'll take an interest in why the paper omitted mention of any concerns or condemnations from gays over HRC getting into bed with a reviled financial mogul. My letter:

The high standards of the New York Times for hard news stories were lacking in the February 6 business section piece by Susanne Craig, Blankfein to Support Same-Sex Marriage, about Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs agreeing to make a public service video for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay political organization.

While Craig dutifully reported on the reactions and potential controversies on Wall Street over Blankfein's collaboration with HRC on gay marriage, she didn't inform readers of the various and strong responses from within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Let's go over specific areas where Craig should have mentioned the reality of the displeasure many gay people have with HRC partnering with Blankfein and Goldman Sachs.

She wrote:

At a dinner on Saturday in New York the Human Rights Campaign awarded Goldman its corporate equality award.

There was a spirited demonstration of angry gays outside the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, site of the dinner, over that award and a similar demonstration took place that night in San Francisco at the HRC store on Castro Street. Numerous blogs and gay news sites lit up with criticism regarding HRC overlooking Goldman Sachs' role in creating economic misery for millions of people. 

Click here and here for a roundup of gay media coverage of the Saturday protest in New York, along with commentary against HRC, and go here for photos and a report on the San Francisco protest.

Craig goes on to say:

The Human Rights Campaign approached Mr. Blankfein in November through a gay executive at Goldman, and he was immediately receptive to the idea, according to people briefed on the matter but not authorized to speak publicly.

I would like to know how the idea was received in the wider gay community, which like too many straight individuals, has been harmed by Goldman Sachs' economic agenda of profits before people. I know many who can speak freely and critically of HRC approaching Blankfein.

More from Craig:

For years, the organization has attracted a notable list of representatives, including Barbara Bush, the daughter of the former President George W. Bush, and the hockey player Sean Avery. Steve Tisch, a businessman and co-owner of the New York Giants, took part in a campaign to legalize gay marriage in New York last year.

This reader would have preferred reporting on the longstanding complaints gays have with this organization, instead of simply listing a few bold-faced names associated with HRC.

But Mr. Blankfein’s participation is part of a new national effort by the Human Rights Campaign to enlist atypical advocates. One set of videos highlighted prominent black Americans, a demographic with especially low support for same-sex marriage. Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark and the comedian and actress Mo’Nique were among the African-Americans who participated. Mr. Blankfein is the first corporate chieftain to represent the organization.

Additional precious space in the New York Times wasted cheerleading for HRC partnering with more high-wattage names.

If Craig had taken the time and energy to speak with someone, anyone, in the gay community who has problems with Blankfein and HRC getting in bed together, just as Craig spoke with and quoted financial experts, then the Times would be upholding its duty to not print recycled p.r. from an advocacy organization.

In recent years, HRC has faced pickets at its dinners in several cities for their abandonment of transgender people, a number of boycotts organized to withhold donations because of longstanding ineffectiveness at passing pro-gay laws in Washington and being too close to the Democratic Party, and a petition started in December 2009 for the executive director Joe Solmonese to resign.  

Anyone who depended only on the Times' reporting on Blankfein and HRC, would might mistakenly believe that the entire LGBT community is fine with the collaboration and we have nothing to say, or nothing that the Times thinks in worth noting.

It's disappointing that the Times in this instance served as a mouthpiece for HRC. I hope the paper in future stories on HRC reports on the deep and wide criticism against this group from LGBT people.

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