Dear Kyra Phillips (CNN), Huh?

On Tuesday, I wrote about a CNN segment hosted by Kyra Phillips that asked the question, "Homosexuality: Is it a problem in need of a cure?"  It was a segment involving the repeal of a 60 year old California law that classified gays and lesbians as sexual deviants and directed experts to seek a 'cure.'  In the segment, Phillips brought on Richard Cohen, the discredited "ex-gay" activist who has no legitimate medical or psychological credential as sort of an expert.  She rightly got hammered for what I called a journalism deficit disorder.

So I was encouraged today when I found the headline "Kyra Phillips Aplogizes" on Think Progress.  But then I watched the video, and I couldn't for the love of the world figure out which part was a "apology."



It was all fine and good that she had Dr. Clinton Anderson on from the American Psychological Association to refute Richard Cohen's absurd theories of "curing" homosexuality. The only thing Phillips said that was even remotely apologetic was that Richard Cohen was "not the most appropriate guest" (gee, ya think?). But for the most part, Kyra Phillips went on a self-defensive posture, imploring people to "see her heart" and watch her show more often. As if what's in her heart or what's on her show regularly changes the gaping hole in journalistic ethic she displayed on Tuesday.

Now, I want to be absolutely clear. Phillips said she received "vicious emails," and I don't think she deserved that or anything approaching hate mail. We can all make our points strongly and in a civil way. She didn't read any of the emails on the air, so I can't speak to exactly what these 'vicious' emails refer to. But I want to urge my readers to keep their emails on point, clear, strong, and respectful. By the way, according to this, you can email Kyra Phillips at Kyra.Phillips@turner.com.

Having said that, Phillips' self-defensive posture and her claim that Dr. Anderson's appearance was facilitated due to the "continued discussion" that started with Cohen being brought on Tuesday (even though, bafflingly, Cohen wasn't the 'most appropriate' guest in her own judgment) is just patently uncalled for. I understand the urge to defend oneself under attack, especially when one gets hate mail, but that should not turn into a defense of the segment that even she acknowledges was ripe for legitimate criticism.

Kyra Phillips claims that she has a good heart and is committed to fairness for gay, lesbian and transgender people.  She says that she has a personal friend who is going through a tough time with her family now.  I have no reason whatsoever to doubt her.  But this isn't about what she feels in her heart, this is about what she puts on the air.  This isn't about the character of Kyra Phillips but the decline of journalism that she contributed to in Tuesday's show.  Not only did she hurt a lot of LGBT Americans and helped spread misinformation, she did journalism a great disservice - and I find her claim that the aforementioned "continued discussion" was what journalism was all about to be ludicrous.

No legitimate critic could be made of her for having a discussion.  But journalism, as I said on Tuesday, is about more than a discussion.  It is about the ability of a journalist to separate fact from fiction, legitimate expert opinion from that of witch doctors, and to make those distinctions clear.  Journalism is not simply about "presenting both sides" of a story.  In a lot of cases, such as this one, one side of it is simply scientifically illegitimate (the "cure the gays" side), and the failure of journalism happened in the failure to acknowledge it and giving the illegitimate side equal stature and validity as the legitimate one.  That is what we have asked Ms. Phillips to realize.

And that is why her response today (toward the end of the video) baffled me.  She made it personal, rather than focusing on the issues of both LGBT Americans and journalism in her commentary.  She defended herself rather than her trade.  In so doing, in my judgment at least, she did not do the cause of fair reporting or journalism any favors.  If I might say something to her, it would be this: those of us who are legitimate critics are not after you, Ms. Phillips; we only seek to correct the long-standing myth in American traditional media that balance and fairness in journalism come from talking heads going at each other rather than from well-researched, factual reports.  That's what you and CNN, respectfully, should focus on.