ADS STRIKE OUT AT GAY BASHING

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Dogged by the Christian Broadcasting Network and waffling by TV outlets over a groundbreaking $1 million anti-hate campaign, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays are about to bash back.

The campaign-offered to Atlanta, Houston, Washington and Tulsa, Okla., TV stations but as of now airing only in D.C.-adds newspapers today while simultaneously seeking new stations in five Midwest and Pacific Northwest markets.

Print ads in USA Today, The Houston Chronicle and The Atlanta Constitution emphasize the refusal by TV stations and cable networks to carry the spots. A print presence was also sought in Tulsa but a Tulsa World policy prohibits ads that include the words "gay, lesbian, homosexual or bisexual."

In Washington, where only Fox affiliate WTTG and two cable channels carried the campaign, print is also under consideration. Other media buys, like radio, are being studied via Insight Media Services, Los Angeles.

"The ads are a springboard in those communities for outreach," said Jeffrey Garrett, PFLAG campaign manager. "The campaign is not just about the ads, it's a wake-up call" to encourage public comment.

The TV spots were also rejected by CNN and Court TV. The ads include "700 Club" sound bites of the Rev. Pat Robertson saying, "Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were satanists; many of them were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together....It is a pathology, it is a sickness."

Before the spots ran, the Rev. Robertson's CBN sent letters early this month threatening a lawsuit against the TV stations and networks on the grounds that the clips were copyrighted, used without permission and the campaign was "defamatory" to the Rev. Robertson. PFLAG believes the "700 Club" clips are in the public domain. CBN said it's still reviewing the situation and hasn't filed suit against anyone yet.

"The spots are fair, honest and important," said Pacy Markman, co-principal of Markman & Zimmerman, Santa Monica, Calif., which created the ads. PFLAG said it isn't considering modifying the spots for now.

"We are condemning hate speech," said PFLAG President Mitzi Henderson. "America needs to hold its leaders accountable to a higher standard."

The campaign is paving a new path because it's among the first significant efforts to run national TV advertising dealing with lesbian and gay issues. Project Open Mind has $1 million in annual support and is expected to run for two to five years.

One of the two 30-second spots dramatizes gay bashing, where a young man is chased by a group and then beaten; the other depicts a young woman holding a gun as she considers suicide. Visuals then cut to TV comments from the Rev. Robertson, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Sen. Jesse Helms (R., N.C.).

NBC Tulsa affiliate KJRH carried the spots for seven days-aired only after 9 p.m. because of the "violence"-then dropped them Nov. 15.

"We're totally in support of the intended message...[but] the creative approach has gotten in the way of the message," said Bill Donahue, KJRH VP-general manager. "Some people were missing the point," interpreting the spots as pro gay bashing.

Other TV outlets, including CNN, flip-flopped about carrying the spots. Most dismissed the suicide version but several initially agreed to carry the gay bashing spot, though only during late-night hours.

CNN tentatively agreed to run the spot during "Larry King Live," then backed out the day it was to run, citing a senior legal staff decision. The network has faced controversy for carrying ads from an anti-abortion group and for refusing spots criticizing a congressional telecommunications bill that parent company Turner Broadcasting System supported.

"We must have a feeling that the claims are reasonable, fair," a CNN spokesman said, referring to ties of violent acts against lesbians and gays with leaders' speeches. "It's incumbent on us to make sure our credibility isn't compromised."

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