12 AUGUST 27, 2004
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Stonewall Democrats of Houston
Defending your GLBT rights
HRC on the D.L
McGreevey's words that
HRC helped with
By RYAN LEE
WHEN "NIGHTLINE" HOST TED KOPPEL
asked Cheryl Jacques her thoughts upon
watching James McGreevey tell the world
that he was gay on Aug. 12. she offered
high praise for the New Jersey governor.
"Well, certainly, we should have great
respect for Governor McGreevey and the
very dignified, and courageous and character-filled way in which he dealt with
this," Jacques, executive director of the
Human Rights Campaign, said on the
ABC News program.
What Koppel didn't know was that
Jacques had good reason to approve of
McGreevey's words: HRC crafted
McGreevey's hallmark line — "I am a gay
American" — in the early 1990s, and had
advised the governor to use it in his
speech earlier that day.
Steven Fisher, communications director for HRC, said Jacques didn't disclose
the ties between the nation's largest gay
rights group and McGreevey because
"Nightline" producers didn't ask.
But a "Nightline" spokesperson said
Jacques should have been more candid.
"We honestly didn't know [that
McGreevey consulted with HRC] and
were quite surprised when we found out,"
said Emily Lenzner, a spokesperson for
"We would have certainly, at the very
least, offered full disclosure [to viewers] if
we had known they were providing guidance
to McGreevey and his staff," Lenzner said.
Fisher also praised McGreevey's "coming out" speech in a number of media
interviews that never indicated HRC consulted on the wording beforehand.
THE OMISSION REFLECTS POORLY ON
both "Nightline" and HRC, but mostly on
the news organization, according to Kelly
McBride, an ethics faculty member at the
(rj ACTION! INFO
Human Rights Campaign
1640 Rhode Island Ave, NW,
Washington, DC 20036
7 W. 66th St.
New York, NY 10023
Cheryl Jaques, director of the Human Rights
Campaign, appeared on 'Nightline' Aug. 12 to praise
New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey's resignation
announcement. Jacques did not disclose that the
organization advised McGreevey on his speech.
Poynter Institute, a journalism teaching
institute based in Tampa, Fla.
"I think 'Nightline' had an obligation
to ferret out that information [about HRC
advising McGreevey] — that's part of
being a good journalist," McBride said.
Journalists should not only tell viewers what sources say, but why they say it
and whether any hidden motives influence their statements, McBride said.
Lenzner said Jacques had appeared on
"Nightline" in the past, and the show's
producers expected her and HRC to be up
front about the consultation the group
provided earlier in the day
Sources have no obligation to voluntarily disclose any connections they may
have to a news story, but someone who
deals with the media regularly "certainly
understands the nature of conflicts of
interests, and it might occur to that person that this information would be relevant to the story," McBride said.
Jacques' decision to praise McGreevey's
wording without disclosing HRC's role in
providing that wording was "deceptive"
and "disingenuous," McBride said.
"I think they suffer the image of being
political spinmeisters," McBride said.
"Once [viewers] find out, you say, 'Wait a
second, this is suspicious. These are not
two individual groups going about their
business, they're working together.'"
JACQUES AND OTHER HRC OFFICIALS
didn't disclose their ties to McGreevey
because the consultation they provided —
equipping him with language to talk
about gay issues and coming out - was
the same service they have given to lawmakers for years, Fisher said.
"No one thought to talk about it because
it's part of the work we do," Fisher said.
HRC coined the "I am a gay American
line in the early 1990s after testing it in
focus groups as a way to convey unity as
opposed to "otherness," Fisher said.
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