Listeners In Uproar About Scott Lively Interview

Listeners were offended by what anti-gay evangelical leader Scott Lively said in a recent interview, and many were angry that he got air time. Tell Me More responds to listeners' concerns.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now we turn to Back Talk. That's where we hear from you about the week's stories. Editor Amita Parashar Kelly is with us for that. Welcome, Amita. And I know that we got a big response to one of our stories last week. So why don't you tell us about that?

PARASHAR KELLY: Yeah. Well, Michel, we got hundreds of tweets, comments and some actual mail about our conversation with evangelical leader Scott Lively. Now he's a pastor who's traveled around Africa and the world preaching against gay rights.

MARTIN: Now I spoke to him about a law that the president of Uganda signed recently that is intended to discourage same-sex relationships there. Pastor Lively is among a group of American evangelicals who have consulted with the Ugandan parliament and others there over this issue over the course of some years. I just want to play a short clip of that conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVAL RECORDING)

PASTOR SCOTT LIVELY: Gender, race, ethnicity - these are all morally neutral. But homosexuality is - involves voluntary sexual conduct with serious public health, social, sociological implications. It's not irrational to discriminate on that basis.

KELLY: Now as I mentioned, a lot of people wrote in about that interview. Some didn't agree and were really offended by what he said, and others were mad at us for giving him air time. Ted Allen who hosts the Food Network show "Chopped" tweeted, quote, can't believe ears. Why is NPR legitimizing anti-gay Scott Lively on TELL ME MORE? And on our website, one commenter wrote, quote, real people are dying because of this man's work. I'm offended by this man's hate speech - truly offended.

Why give him a platform for his propaganda? Why not the Westboro Baptist Church or the White Rights movement? Now of course, we've thought about those questions. But our mission is to bring listeners stories that affect people's lives. And we know that what Pastor Lively says is offensive to a lot of people. But the fact is that he has a huge reach around the world. People in Uganda are listening to him, and Uganda's parliament is listening. So we wanted to hear what he had to say.

MARTIN: Absolutely right, Amita. I would add to that that I have interviewed people connected with the White Rights movement and other people whose views many people find offensive. And I will do so again if I feel it's newsworthy.

KELLY: And, Michel, another comment people had was that you didn't push back enough during that interview. Do you want to respond to that?

MARTIN: I would. I would say that every interview is different. I would say that I feel I did push back - to quote a phrase - where I felt appropriate. But I think that some of the people who wrote in are actually looking for something else. I think that what they are looking for is the emotional release of my berating him for his views. I felt that my job in that moment was to let people who are not acquainted with his views know what those views are.

I used the same standard as I did when speaking to the Ugandan LGBT rights activist Frank Mugisha when I spoke with him the day before I spoke with Pastor Scott Lively. And I note that there are certainly people who don't agree with Frank Mugisha's perspective, but interestingly none of them wrote in demanding that his perspective not be heard on our air.

KELLY: Right, and in fact we've spoken with LGBT activist Frank Mugisha three times on the program. I went back and checked. And we've covered the violence facing gays and lesbians in Uganda as well.

MARTIN: As we've covered the LGBT rights movement in other parts of the world and this country, and we will continue to do that as well. Anything else, Amita?

KELLY: Well, I just want to leave you with this. We also had some listeners jump in to defend Pastor Lively's right to speak. Kelly McClure tweeted, quote, completely disagree with him, but each side is allowed to elaborate on what they believe #FreedomOfSpeech.

MARTIN: Thank you, Amita.

KELLY: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: Amita Parashar Kelly is an editor here at TELL ME MORE. And remember, we want to hear from you. To tell us more, you can check us out on Facebook or find us on Twitter. We are @TELLMEMORENPR.

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