Published Monday, July 31, 2000, Minneapolis StarTribune
Nearly 300 people protest 'Dr. Laura' show at KARE-TV
Terry Collins, Star Tribune
Nearly 300 people protested Sunday outside the KARE-TV (Channel 11) studios over the station's decision to air a syndicated show hosted by controversial conservative radio talk-show host Laura Schlessinger this fall.
"Dr. Laura, you're a fraud. Who died and made you God?" the protesters chanted, marching in front of the station at 8811 Olson Memorial Hwy. in Golden Valley. "Hey KARE, no fair. Don't you have a heart in there?"
They carried colorful signs reading, "KARE-less Television," and "Where's the KARE?" Police arrested a 42-year-old Minneapolis man for disorderly conduct after he tried taking a sign from a protester. No other arrests were made during the two-hour demonstration.
Sponsored by the Stop Dr. Laura Twin Cities Coalition, the protest was one of several recent nationwide demonstrations.
Schlessinger, whose syndicated national radio program draws an estimated 18 million listeners weekly, has implied that gay men are pedophiles. She also has described homosexuality as "deviant" and derivative of "biological error."
Jackie Farrow and her longtime partner, Valerie Hauch, were concerned about Farrow's 7-year-old granddaughter watching the show, to begin Sept. 11. Whether it airs following the morning talk shows, after the soap operas or late at night, the Minneapolis couple don't want her exposed to it -- not even in commercials.
"I want her to be able to turn on the TV and feel somewhat safe," said Farrow, clutching her granddaughter's hand. "That's why we're here."
Protester Brent Roelofs of Minneapolis said he was "extremely surprised" by the large turnout, which also included several Twin Cities religious leaders. Many passed out a letter they endorsed that read, "in our opinion, her [Schlessinger's] message is hateful, bigoted and dangerous."
During her speech to protesters, the Rev. Sandye Wilson of the Gethsemane Episcopal Church in Minneapolis said, "Hate is not a part of our vocabulary. And hate is not a family value, either."
In a written release, John Remes, president and general manager of KARE-TV said the station bought the license to air Schlessinger's show before it found out about her controversial statements.
"The syndicator of the show, Paramount Television, has assured us that the program will not address the type of subject matter that has created this controversy," Remes said.
But try telling that to Andy Thayer, who helped organize the Web site http://www.stopdrlaura.com. On Sunday, he urged protesters to visit the site, which has the names, addresses and telephone numbers of Paramount executives. He advised them to keep putting pressure on them.
"This shows that you care, not KARE-11," said Thayer, who added that the Twin Cities protest ranked third in attendance behind similar events held in New York and Los Angeles. "By coming out here in solidarity, we carry the message that we will, we must, be heard."
Schlessinger, who is not a medical doctor but holds a doctorate in physiology, is fighting back in response to the outcry. After losing nearly 10 percent of her radio advertising, she has urged her listeners to start a letter and e-mail campaign to thank current sponsors.
In a letter on her Web site, http://www.drlaura.com, she recently said, "Folks who don't share our beliefs about what's right for children and the family are trying to disrupt our relationship."
She told Time magazine three weeks ago that what she said was taken out of context. "I never called homosexuals deviants," she said. "I have pointed out that homosexual behavior deviates from the norm of heterosexuality and is forbidden by Scriptures."
While Schlessinger's opponents believe she has the right to her opinions and freedom of speech, they've asked advertisers not to sponsor her. Those pulling either their TV or radio ads have included Toys "R" Us, United Airlines, AT&T, Kraft, Procter & Gamble and Geico Insurance.
Remes said viewers and advertisers will determine the success of Schlessinger's show.
"Dr. Laura Schlessinger will succeed or fail based on viewing levels and advertiser support just like any other program," he said, adding that the station will monitor the show's content and "will keep the dialogue open and honest."
With that in mind, Thayer and the other demonstrators had one last message for the station before ending the protest: "Dump the quack or we'll be back."
-- Staff writer Chris Graves contributed to this report.
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