NPR does a bit of a hatchet job on “ex-gay” therapy

I appreciate where NPR is coming from with their recent report about the “controversy” over ex-gay therapy.  They tried to get “both sides” by interviewing one guy who said he was cured of his homosexuality, and then talking to another who said it didn’t work.  The problem is that NPR fell into the traditional “balance” trap of the traditional media by applying a he-said she-said construct to an argument that’s already been decided.  Thus, in essence, giving validity to the side that’s false by making it seem as though the topic was still open for debate.

I have no idea how NPR found a guy claiming he was cured of his gayness.  I’ve been working on this issue for 18 years and never have I found anyone who claimed to be cured.  Oh sure, the “ex-gays” claim lots of “success” stories.  But their definition of success is not someone who is no longer attracted to men and now is attracted to women. They NEVER claim that.  And recently, the head of the largest “ex-gay” group admitted that you can’t cure people of being gay.  So it’s somewhat of a mystery how NPR even found this guy. (They’re definition of “cure” is what most of us would call celibacy.)

But the bigger issue is why NPR didn’t bother mentioning what an anomaly this guy actually is. Why NPR didn’t mention that the head of Exodus International admitted recently that no one can be cured?

Lisa Ling: The truth of the matter is that he, and people who are part of the Exodus movement – we spent a lot of time with them, got exclusive access into the Exodus movement – they say that you can’t completely turn it off, you can’t change your sexual orientation. But you can try to live a life according to what the Bible says, with help.

Barbara Walters: You talked to a great many people, as you say all around the country.
Do you think it is possible to change your sexuality, is that what you’ve come to as a conclusion.

Lisa Ling: Even the head of Exodus says he doesn’t believe you can change your sexual orientation. He says that he constantly has to fight his attraction for men.

Why didn’t NPR mention how the lead ex-gay group in the UK closed down years ago because the man in charge admitted it didn’t work? Why didn’t NPR tell us about the old poster boy of the ex-gay movement, John Paulk, who was fired when he was found trolling for young men in a skanky gay bar in DC?

From NPR’s perspective, understandably, they’re probably a bit confused by all of this. They think, rightfully, that they did an honest he-said he-said interviewing both sides of the debate, then talking to the APA about it. So from their perspective, they were even super duper fair by having two people who said it didn’t work.

But the problem is that it’s generally established that it doesn’t work. By not acknowledging that fact, but jumping into an issue that I suspect the reporter and her producer were not intimately familiar with, they brought their own newbie biases to play in the piece, and failed to note the long history of failure in this supposed “cure” movement. In essence, by trying to play this story in a balanced way, NPR gave the phony “cure” charlatans credibility that they simply no longer have.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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