So, Montel Williams has a temper. While in Savannah to promote a program offering free prescriptions to those with low incomes, the talk-show host blew up at Courtney Scott, a high school intern at the Savannah Morning News, when she asked him, “Do you think pharmaceutical companies would be discouraged from research and development if their profits were restricted?” Williams terminated the interview and later said to Scott, “Do you know who I am? I’m a big star, and I can look you up, find where you live and blow you up.” He has since apologized.
Some might be surprised by the Montel’s irrational outburst. I’m not. I was a guest on his show this past March and witnessed the same pride as well as an ample display of his prejudice.
As a former homosexual and president of a ministry that helps those dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction, I am often invited to share my story in the media. “The Montel Williams Show” was no exception, and my wife and I joined the show’s panel for an episode on change and homosexuality. I never expected Montel to be unbiased, but wanted to laugh out loud when he actually stated that he was.
Most of the 250-member audience was made up of men and women from the local Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center. The guest list was predictably one-sided with a variety of individuals who did not support our views. One of them was Lance Carroll, a 19-year-old experiencing same-sex attraction who had attended one of our member ministries. Shortly before he was to share his story, my friends Tom and Donna Cole, both former homosexuals, stated privately to Montel that their life experiences were just as legitimate as this young man’s. Montel, angered by their plea for equality, began screaming, “This is my show. I can do whatever I want. I’m in charge.” He then threw them out of the studio without an explanation. While his staff attributed his behavior to his MS medications, they themselves were unnerved – one was in tears and another was cursing. Of course, none of that made the cut.
Montel proceeded to “interview” me, but when I mentioned that I left homosexuality to live according to my personal convictions and biblical beliefs, he flew into a rage. The final straw was when Dr. Alicia Salzer, a gay activist and after-care director for the show, began publicly promoting faulty scientific claims. She said, “Science has shown us that 96 percent of people cannot change and along the way absorb an enormous amount of self-loathing, a lot of confusion, a lot of family conflict – so I know the harm.” When asked for the data to support this assertion, Salzer pointed to the 2002 research of Drs. Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder. Yet, by the researchers own disclaimer, their study cannot be used to support this statistic.
Salzer has offered no other support for her televised claim. So we filed an ethics complaint with the New York branch of the American Psychiatric Association, as the APA’s own Code of Ethics denounces making such public statements.
We all understand that the media is biased. We all know that the facts are often manipulated in journalism, but ultimately this media bias really only promotes the two character traits most journalists say they find deplorable – ignorance and fear.
I get regular e-mails from those who feel defrauded by the media on a regular basis when it comes to this issue. I don’t know what Montel and others in the media have to fear about an honest, civil discussion that includes stories like mine, but their prejudice isn’t helpful to the public. Obfuscating the facts and subverting opposing viewpoints only deprives others of a chance to have real dialogue about the culture we live in and hurts those dealing with issues like this on a personal level as well.
So whether Montel was staunchly defending his own personal agenda or just needs some serious anger management, I’ll probably never know. But before he and others in the media get on their soapbox to defend equality and tolerance, how ’bout a little for us?
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