The Catholic League’s president Bill Donohue surprised exactly zero people earlier this week when he took out an ad in the New York Times, condemning ABC and its parent company Disney for daring to work with columnist, satirist and LGBT rights activist Dan Savage on a new sitcom about an Irish Catholic family, “The Real O’Neals.”
“SHAME ON DISNEY-ABC,” he ranted, labeling Savage as worse than the former KKK head David Duke and comparing ABC’s decision to work with Savage on the sitcom (which is loosely based on Savage’s own Irish Catholic upbringing in Chicago) to if “David Duke were hired to produce a show about African Americans.”
Before we go any further, let’s not forget that Donohue has a long history of making pretty ridiculous comments including that Pope Francis must have been confused when he said Donald Trump was not a Christian, that the Charlie Hebdo attackers were right to be upset about the magazine’s satire, refusing to march in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade once an LGBT group was finally allowed to march, and not following through when he tried to make a point by applying to march in the NYC Gay Pride parade and was approved.
In this week’s ad, Donohue writes that his comparison of Savage to the former KKK leader is actually “an understatement. Duke may be a bigot, but he is not known for his foul comments.” He claims that, “By contrast, Savage is so vulgar that the original full-page ad I wrote was turned down by this newspaper. Why? Because the obscenities were deemed too incendiary for its readers, even with the use of asterisks in place of letters.” The italics are Donohue’s, and he has helpfully provided a copy of the original ad on the Catholic League’s website.
Perhaps the most preposterous element in the whole ad is the idea that David Duke is “not known for foul comments” and that Savage is somehow worse than he is. Dan Savage very often says vulgar things, but that’s because he’s a satirist and because he’s rightfully mad as hell about things like the Church’s child sex abuse scandal or the harassment or marginalization of the LGBTQ community.
Duke, meanwhile is a gross racist and anti-Semite who says all sorts of horrendous things which I won’t write here, even with asterisks, because there’s just no need to.
As Frank Cocozelli, president of the Institute for Progressive Christianity has previously written, “Donohue demagogically conflates progressive and liberal dissent with hate. There are important differences between hate and dissent, regardless of the source.”
In the ad that was published and in greater detail in the version that was rejected, Donohue also references perhaps the most controversial moment of Savage’s career – an article he wrote for Salon in 2000 in which he described infiltrating the campaign office of Gary Bauer, a conservative Christian presidential hopeful, and going around the place licking door knobs and office supplies in an attempt to give Bauer the flu.
Donohue conveniently neglects to mention anything about the flu, only referring to Savage’s “sick bodily fluids.”
The article produced significant outrage in people who didn’t fathom the depths of its satire, but Salon defended it as “powerful writing, Swiftian in its desperate, satiric outrage at anti-gay discrimination.”
Donohue goes on to note, correctly, that “ABC has won awards from the gay community for its show, “Modern Family.” It has won awards from African Americans for “Black-ish.” So concerned was the network that it might offend Asians with its new show, “Fresh Off the Boat,” that it invited leaders to meet with producers. But when it comes to Catholics, ABC delivers Dan Savage.”
So I’d like to take a moment here to thank ABC for delivering Dan Savage and for presenting what hopefully continues to be a modern, relatable, inclusive look at an Irish Catholic family.
And I’d also like to thank Dan Savage for some of the most valuable lessons he’s shared over the years:
- It Gets Better. Savage launched the poignant campaign in 2010 after the suicide of Billy Lawless, a teen who took his own life after being bullied for his perceived sexual orientation. Since then, over 50,000 people have contributed video testimony about how their lives improved as they got older and they were able to have fulfilling relationships, start families, succeed personally and professionally, etc.
- That relationships and sex are things you can and should talk about with honesty and consideration. Savage has even coined an acronym for this – G.G.G., “Good, giving and game.”
- That you should have sex first on special occasions: Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, etc. – if you’re going to go out and have a fancy meal and maybe some wine or cocktails, Savage has given the crucial life advice to take the time to get intimate beforehand so you can be happily tipsy/bloated/sleepy later instead of feeling frustrated and/or guilty.
- That there is a politician named Rick Santorum (seriously, I know so many people who had never even heard of Santorum until Dan Savage started talking about him and the eponymous fluids).