NGLTF withdraws from benefit after Cho is disinvited

BY Joe Okonkwo

July 23 2004 12:00 AM ET

A leading
national gay rights group has withdrawn from a gay and
lesbian political benefit titled "Unity 2004," scheduled for
July 26 in Boston, after learning that comedian Margaret Cho
had been disinvited to the event. The benefit will be held
at a local bar known as Avalon at the same time as the
Democratic National Convention. The National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force was one of 10 cosponsors of the event but
withdrew after they found out Cho was disinvited by the gay
rights group Human Rights Campaign. Cho's invitation was
retracted in light of a recent controversy regarding
celebrities who support John Kerry for president while
publicly bashing President Bush.
The Human Rights Campaign said their choice to
disinvite Cho from the benefit is justified. "The event is
designed to be about the unity of the community behind John
Kerry," an HRC spokesman told Variety.com. "We had invited
Cho. When we asked about her material, we were told it would
be a 'brutal performance,' which we didn't think was in the
spirit of what we were doing. We didn't want to censor
Margaret." The HRC spokesman warned of a potential "media
firestorm" if Cho were to perform and referenced the recent
criticism of Whoopi Goldberg by Bush supporters.
Matt Foreman, executive director of NGLTF, told
Advocate.com that the organization is supporting Cho because
of her commitment to the gay and lesbian community and noted
that they had awarded her a Task Force Leadership Award last
year. "Margaret Cho has been an incredibly loyal supporter
of LGBT rights. She has performed at literally countless gay
fund-raisers for free. She is one of us," Foreman said. "We
don't think it's right to bow to concerns that the right
wing will use what she has to say against the Democratic
ticket." Foreman added that he doesn't feel the controversy
will damage his group's relationship with HRC. "We're all
allies in the fight," he said. "We have respectful
disagreements all the time. And we really do consider HRC a
very valuable ally."
In a statement on Cho's Web site, her manager
defended her controversial comedy act by writing: "I am not
surprised at the reversal in light of how the Kerry campaign
distanced itself from Whoopi's routine in response to the
unrelenting media hype and Republican criticism. It's
Whoopi's job as a comedian to say things that are sometimes
shocking. I wish they could have backed her up. Dennis
Miller can make gay jokes about Kerry and Edwards at a
recent Bush rally in Wisconsin to a complete absence of
media scrutiny. No one demanded a tape of that event or
alleged that his comments as a comedian might reflect poorly
on Bush."

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