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Shame on Lesley Stahl, ‘60 Minutes’ for Promoting Marjorie Taylor Greene

Shame on Lesley Stahl, ‘60 Minutes’ for Promoting Marjorie Taylor Greene

Rep. Greene (left) and Lesley Stahl

A serious news show sinks to the bottom, an out editor sinks to DeSantis, and a network sinks to trans disinformation, and why isn't someone speaking out?

As an adjunct college professor teaching media, I asked my class once if they watched 60 Minutes. Only one hand went up in a class of 19. When I asked why, one student spoke up and said that the reporters were a bunch of out of touch old people. That kid was pretty prophetic.

I wasn’t surprised, because, as someone of a certain age that regularly watches the show, I know that making it appointment TV for a Sunday night at 7 p.m. is no longer the thing to do. If a program doesn't stream, it's out of touch.

What happened during Sunday night’s program is making me consider joining my students and not watching 60 Minutes, which debuted a year after The Advocate's launch in 1967. My protest against 60 is not because it’s for old people, but because the show jumped the shark this week and lost all sense of credible and serious journalism.

WTF (excuse my French acronym) was 60 Minutes journalist Lesley Shahl doing talking to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene? I once introduced myself to Stahl, who is 81, in front of the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, and told her I have long admired her career, but now…I don’t know what to think.

Maybe it wasn’t Stahl’s decision to feature Greene, but she certainly, by this late stage in her career, has veto power over any stories that may come her way, even from the head honchos of CBS. That means an interview with one of the Republican party’s most dangerous liars must have passed Stahl’s sniff test? Come on Lesley! Her acquiescence most assuredly made the chiefdoms at CBS giddy because focusing on Greene was probably considered to be a ratings hit and sure-fire clickbait.

If that’s the reason for showcasing MTG, i.e. viewers and clicks, that is pathetic — if what CBS intended was buzz, they are getting it for all the wrong reasons. Sunday night for a moment, there was no difference between CBS’s most venerable show and Fox’s Tucker Carlson. Stahl’s interview, if that’s what you want to call it, was just an opportunity for Greene to get up on her soap box and go unchallenged as she ripped decorum, volleyed lies, and vomited conspiracies.

While I watched, with my mouth agape, all I could think about was how the uninformed were viewing this s**t-show. That is, average Americans who only occasionally read the first sentence of a news story, and don’t have time to track down all the ominous things Greene has said over the years. They have only heard of Greene in passing.

Stahl and CBS wrongfully assumed that their sophisticated audience would know all about Greene and the fact that she's from another planet. That is a dangerous assumption. Even more dangerous is that the stellar reputation of 60 Minutes invariably rubbed off on Greene. If 60 Minutes features Greene, to someone less informed, that gives her credibility.

She lied tortuously, and she said things about our community that would give reason for the uninformed to pause and think LGBTQ+ people, and transgender individuals in particular, were not normal. Most perilously was her claim that Democrats and Joe Biden were sexualizing children by supporting transgender surgery for youths who are struggling with their identity.

All Stahl could do was say, “Wow.” Wow? There was no context provided to Greene's remarks. Left alone, they stood without rebuttal or explanation as to why they were destructive and hurtful. Where were the disclaimers or warnings during this purported news show? If this had been Twitter, well Twitter of the old days, these statements would be flagged. There should have been a running chyron at the bottom of the screen during the entire segment that flashed “these are all vile lies.”

Stahl, gasping, shaking her head, hemming and hawing were not stern objections to what Greene was saying. It just sounded and looked like Stahl whimpering in defeat.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop with Greene. NBC News ran a story about the drag queen show bill in Tennessee last week. It featured an interview with a transgender woman who does drag. Seems harmless right? Not at all. The network was conflating two subjects that are being hammered by societal and legislative cruelty — trans identity and drag queens. It most certainly left the viewer confused.

The segment sent a message, again to the ill-informed, that all trans people are drag queens. Further, the report included and highlighted an interview with a mom who is anti-drag and the lawmaker who sponsored the bill. It reminds me of the way climate change was covered before the media realized there was only one right and true answer. Reporters used to include climate skeptics in their stories, to “balance” it. But what the skeptics were saying was just plain garbage, so the media stopped including their comments once the science stood loud and clear.

Same goes for the drag queen issue. There is not a single shred of truth that drag queens harm society or children. There is no "other side" to this situation. No reason to "balance" a story with "skeptics" citing a problem that doesn't exist. It is a seething lie, and there was no push back by the NBC reporter, Antonia Hylton. She didn’t even ask the mother or the legislator if they’d been to a drag story hour, or if they even took the time to meet a queen.

During the lopsided piece, Hyland quoted — and showed a graphic — of GLAAD statistics about the harm these bills are having on the queer community in terms of instigating violence. We’ll get to GLAAD in a minute.

Finally, all trends come in threes. Last week the editor of Outsports, arguably the top media outlet that covers queer athletics, announced via Twitter that he was leaving the Democratic party and joining the Republican party, but he took it a step further. He announced his support for our community’s number one enemy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and even included a link where we could “get more information about him.”

I think we know enough about him already. He was getting slammed on Twitter, and I spoke out about it in a column that ran over the weekend. Then, on April 1, he thanked everyone for reaching out, said his eyes had been opened, and he'd have more on Monday. Monday came and went, and Zeigler said nothing. It was an insulting April Fools joke most likely, belittling the comments of hundreds, some of whom talked about how DeSantis's anti-LGBTQ laws were affecting them personally.

Stahl, NBC and Zeigler need to be called out, and then some!

Where are the organizations — or organization — that is monitoring media on our behalf, and condemning all these ominous decisions from reporters, broadcasters and editors?

Not to sound passive-aggressive, but I have long admired GLAAD, and think they do a great job — most of the time — on being the media watchdog for the queer community; however, why haven’t they been standing up for us when things cross a line?

Sure, our community is being attacked right now from so many different directions; thus, they might not have the human-power to cover all of the stations — literally and figuratively — 24/7. Yet, these three examples, Stahl, NBC, and Zeigler, are high-profile enough that they deserve repudiation from an organization who “ensures fair, accurate, and inclusive representation that rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance.”

GLAAD does a good job celebrating some dynamic achievements for our community in the media, but they seem to have gone silent as things go south. And I don’t see anyone calling them out for turning their eyes?

For now, we need someone bringing accountability to CBS and 60 Minutes before they book the My Pillow guy or, even worse, George Santos.

John Casey is senior editor for The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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