October 13, 2006
Pete Wilson, ya gotta go!
There’s no place for you here.
THAT’S HOW SUPERVISOR CHRIS DALY PUT IT.
Not even the “most backwater of media markets” will want news anchor and radio talk show host Pete Wilson after this, this…I don’t know...travesty. Oh, I beg to differ. I think backwater media markets will come out of the woodwork like cockroaches and start a bidding war over the guy. I got home from work and turned the KGO-TV 6:00 evening news on at 5:58, according to the DVD player LED clock I most often keep covered with black electrical tape, but Pete Wilson’s big ole Halloween jack-o-lantern of a head was already on there jawing about spinach and cattle. I thought, hm, is this how they’re going to handle it? Treat it like it never happened? Because the newsman, today, was the newsmaker.
A PRESS CONFERENCE WAS CALLED
on the steps of City Hall to denounce comments Wilson made on his KGO-Radio talk show about the newborn baby of Supervisor Bevan Dufty and his lesbian friend Rebecca Goldfader, conceived by in-vitro fertilization. They will live together and raise the child together, “co-parenting” the child while also pursuing their own “separate” lives. This makes their one-week-old baby “to [Wilson’s] mind, a travesty, or a potential travesty.” To wit, “A baby is a human being, a delicate thing, our past, present and future. It is not an experiment. But the Dufty-Goldfader baby is, in my mind, a travesty, or a potential travesty.” Why don’t he and Cardinal Levada get together to decry the violence being done to babies by all these second-class citizens wanting families of their own making?
CITY HALL IS A SHORT BUS RIDE
down Van Ness from my office on Bush St., so I went over there to see what the TV news might leave out. Though they didn’t treat it as the “top story tonight,” KGO-TV did air, at 6:11, a 3-minute, 58-second piece by correspondent Vic Lee outlining the situation, including clips from the offending radio piece, clips from Wilson’s subsequent on-air apology, clips from the press conference, an expert opinion from SF State Broadcast Dept. professor Miriam Smith, and mention of Dufty’s email to Wilson that he did not want him to resign over this, that they have both learned something and should move on. Before closing co-anchor Jessica Aguirre tacked on, “It’s also worth mentioning that ABC-7 news is the only television station in the country with a journalist dedicated to covering gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender issues.” Which, if it’s true—I don’t know how they would know to make that claim—only serves to make Wilson’s comments seem even more outrageous and egregious. As the final surreal touch, they ran a spot immediately upon sign-off plugging Wilson’s radio show!
WILSON, HOWEVER, WAS MUM
on the subject of himself, though he had to have been squirming like he had worms in his pants to get through that half-hour. His next words after the piece, to weatherman Spencer Christian were, “So, is it cooling down?” Not for you, sweetheart! If Wilson’s foot is as big as his mouth, it’ll take longer than a 4-minute news spot to extract it out of there. Yes, “my big mouth has finally done me in,” he reportedly said. But it hasn’t, and it won’t. According to a statement by Tom Ammiano, Wilson had referred to the co-parenting arrangement as a “ ‘social science experiment’ that constitutes ‘another layer of dysfunction’ in a society plagued by broken relationships and substandard parenting.” While Wilson called Dufty and Goldfader’s decision to have a child together “agenda-driven,” transgender activist Robert Haaland pointed out that Wilson was himself guilty of using their child to make a political statement of his own. And it wasn’t just an opinion he voiced. His comments were malicious, hurtful, ugly and venomous.
CHANNEL 7′S VIDEO CLIP
of Wilson’s radio apology showed him explaining, “Some of the language I used sounded personal, and frankly some of it was…I don’t know, sarcastic and cheap shot and hyperbole, an exaggeration…I do think that in some ways I went too far, and for that, again, I apologize…” CBS5.com offered some additional verbiage: Wilson referred to the hyperbole and exaggeration as “something that I do now and again,” (oh, that’s just Pete for ya!) and that his language “was probably, and in some cases it was, inappropriate, and I was wrong!” There, I said it! Are you happy now? However, the forced, grudging tone of voice in which he delivered this concession was to me disingenuous, impatient, anything but sincere; he sounded disgruntled and annoyed, like a kid led by the ear for the obligatory apology to a neighbor whose window he broke.
He’s sorry he got called on the carpet, not for feeling or saying what he did. “That someone so ignorant,” I wrote to KGO, “would use his position of influence to demonstrate that ignorance, is astonishing. I guess he’s just taking his cues from George Bush!” Yes, everyone on the steps of City Hall agreed that it was an abuse of his position as a broadcaster to air such personally derogatory remarks about a specific family, a specific child, in the public eye. That didn’t stop Supervisor Tom Ammiano from getting a laugh about the short spurt of grunting that must have produced Wilson’s own children. Wasn’t that a below-the-belt crack from a public podium? Because of course both Wilson and Ammiano are entitled to free speech protections, but as public figures, personal opinions expressed from their public soapboxes may end up as headlines.
As a journalist, Wilson should certainly know better, especially when his bio on the KGO-Radio website reads: “He involves listeners with his own personal in-depth objective opinions. … Pete sees himself as traditionally independent and tends to reject anything that smacks of ideology. ‘I tend to attack any argument that identifies itself with labels, conservative or liberal. In other words, Bring on the righteous.’ Jay-sus Kee-rist! Well, he asked for it!
BOARD PRESIDENT AARON PESKIN
argued that “you can not have somebody have a hateful talk show radio and then go on as the evening news anchor and pretend to be unbiased.” Give me a break, he added. I agree the two jobs can’t help but engender a conflict of interest, the one involving discussion of controversial issues he must on the other report on, and Wilson should resign one post or the other, preferably both, or alternatively, get fired. But he won’t. KGO-TV’S news director slapped Pete on the hand: “Some of the comments Pete Wilson made…were absolutely inappropriate, hurtful, cheap shots and over the line. I’ve told him he was wrong to make the comments and he is in agreement. He has apologized publicly on his radio show.” And gosh dern it that’s good enough for me!
NO, WILSON WILL CONTINUE TO SWIVEL
in his anchor chair as time passes and the world turns, and people will tune their attention to other scandalous happenings, become distracted by the next latest celebrity fuck-up, like Mel Gibson apologizing for getting caught being anti-Semitic, or Mark Foley for being all-around creepy, etc., and so as usual in today’s world, anyone who’s sorry, sorry, sorry! gets a pass because sadly, to my own dismay, there is a place for Pete Wilson in San Francisco.
PEOPLE USE THE EXPRESSION
“in a perfect world…” to describe ideal conditions which are unlikely to ever be met in this imperfect world of ours. And in that perfect world, people would not hate people different from themselves or their ideas of how things should be, people would not be ugly and self-righteous in expressing their loathsome ideas, much less broadcast them on radio and TV, people would live together in respectful tolerance and joyous harmony, medical marijuana would be legal, the streets would be clean and crime-free, etc.
BUT SAN FRANCISCO IS NOT,
as it is so often now wistfully and then critically called, a bubble, an anomaly, an island, the idyllic land of granola where all the fruits, flakes and nuts who think alike will not tolerate intolerance—it is still part of the plain old imperfect world-at-large where people hate other people, say ugly things about them, get called on the carpet about them, apologize in a half-assed mommy-made-me way for being caught being hateful, and where their employers will shake their fingers and stand by their man, because they will not be bullied into doing the right thing, goddammit! Sometimes when I see the rancor and baiting expressed just in the small world of my neighborhood’s online community bulletin board, I despair of people ever getting along together on any level, much less globally. There has to be some sort of moral compass for how you treat other people, and Wilson is lacking it.
IN MY PERSONAL WORLD,
Pete Wilson does not get away with it. Because I know what’s “in [his] mind.” He now has the credibility of the sex predators Dateline NBC has been trapping with their bait-and switch sting operation using a fictitious online 13-year-old girl to lure men to a set-up house in Petaluma, where they all, dozens of them, get arrested proclaiming they would never, ever have actually had sex with the 13-year-old girl they came to have sex with. They are suddenly so very contrite, so very very sorry. No, what Wilson did was not illegal, but I don’t care what Pete Wilson says as an anchor; I know what’s in his mind as a man. And it’s hateful.
WHEN I FIRST HEARD
about Dufty’s plan to have a child with a lesbian friend and co-habit in order to raise the child together, I thought, what a great idea! Why haven’t more people done that? When I congratulated him at a neighborhood meeting, he could not contain his joy and excitement; his face lit up like slot machine jackpot. I don’t know the man personally, but if I had to describe him in one word from the many public appearances I have observed him at, it would be “gentle.” Truly he’s one of those of whom one would say, he wouldn’t hurt a fly. That makes Wilson’s rancor all the more bitter, because Dufty generously doesn’t even want him to resign. He does not want this lesson to be learned “at the cost of someone’s job.” Pete Wilson doesn’t hold a burned-out matchstick to Bevan Dufty.
NOW EVERYONE WILL HAVE SAID EVERYTHING
about this debacle in the coming days, so I will just add a personal note. If my parents’ marriage wasn’t exactly made in hell, it certainly simply should never have been. I was the result of a loveless marriage of convenience because my mother, a young widow in the early 50’s, needed a father and his income for her orphaned daughter, my older sister, and my dad came along to fill the gap. That well-intentioned mistake should have ended in divorce except that people didn’t do that then; they stayed together tolerating intolerable marriages for the sake of the children. I wish to God they had not done us that so-called favor, because no one in my household was happy about anything with that dynamic duo in their midst.
If there is one thing I have carried through life as the lesson of that environment, it is that is you did not feel loved by your father or mother when you needed it most, as a newborn infant and young child, if your folks were slacking off on the job, missing in action, or too busy using you as a power play in their war against each other, there’s a good possibility that no other love you ever receive in all your life, will ever fill that particular void. The essential thing any infant wants and needs most, is to feel loved and wanted by her caregivers.
SUCH WILL BE THE LIFE
of little Sydney Maely Goldfader-Dufty, whose caregivers happen to be her own mother and father. And how lucky is that? Blessings upon you!
The author’s friend Bill, half the dynamicparenting duo of Bill and Dave, fatheringteam to adopted Gabrielle, nose-to-nosewith Cookers.
Gay Marriage Equality Rally
All you need is love.
copyright Alexandra Jones 2006