The mainstream media is giving widespread — and negative — coverage to comments made by pasta king Guido Barilla.
Just check out these headlines: “Italian pasta baron’s anti-gay comment prompts boycott call” (Reuters); “Pasta maker Barilla under fire for anti-gay comments” (CNN Money); “Pasta Barilla boycotted after CEO’s ‘homophobic’ remarks” (MSNBC); and “Barilla pasta executive in hot water for anti-gay comments” (New York Daily News). Even a post on the Los Angeles Times website that has a more neutral headline (“Guido Barilla says pasta maker will never show gay families in ads”) goes straight for the anti-gay accusation in the first sentence: “Is Barilla pasta taking a page out of the Chick Fil-A anti-gay playbook?”
So what exactly did Barilla, who heads a huge pasta company, say that was so awful? Did he propose that gay relationships be illegal? Did he make hateful comments about gays and lesbians, like movie star Alec Baldwin, whose July homophobic tweets such as “I’m gonna find you George Stark, you toxic little queen, and I’m gonna f**k you . . . up” not only didn’t get him axed from his Capital One spokesman role, but also didn’t prevent him from getting hired to host an MSNBC show? No. What Barilla did was to announce that he doesn’t approve of adoption by gay couples, and he doesn’t plan to feature a family with gay parents in Barilla ads. That’s it. In fact, Barilla even added that he supports gay marriage.
However, supporting gay marriage, but not gay adoption, isn’t good enough to suit the mainstream media, which has a long history of ditching objectivity when covering LGBT issues. In 2004, then–New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent lamented, “It’s disappointing to see The Times present the social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading.” Eight years later, then–New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane fretted that thanks to the “political and cultural progressivism” of Times employees, “developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.”
Nor is such bias exclusive to the Gray Lady. According to a June analysis by the Pew Research Center of news stories written earlier in 2013 about gay marriage, 47 percent were primarily supportive of gay marriage, while a mere 9 percent were mainly in opposition and 44 percent were deemed neutral.
It’s easy to see the bias in favor of gay marriage play out in media reports. Barilla, like Chick-fil-A before it, is finding out that opposing the gay-rights agenda in any way will earn you a public-relations beating, even though 35 states ban gay marriage and 40 percent of Americans oppose it (according to a July USA Today/Gallup poll). Yet while the nation is split on this controversial matter, companies that rush to embrace gay marriage or LGBT causes don’t seem to be similarly blindsided by bad publicity when they make their announcements. It’s true that some traditional-marriage supporters have urged boycotts of companies such as Starbucks that announce their support for gay marriage, but generally, the overall media reception appears to be neutral or favorable.
When travel company Expedia decided to air an ad featuring a lesbian wedding, it became the top example in a New York Times article headlined, “Commercials With a Gay Emphasis Are Moving to Mainstream Media.” Reuters wrote about a gay couple in a J. C. Penney ad with this headline, “J. C. Penney ad puts gay Texas couple in spotlight.” CNN wrote earlier this year about “Gay marriage’s corporate boosters,” noting Oreo’s decision to upload a photo of a cookie filled with all the colors of the rainbow. The article then speculated that “businesses don’t have much to lose by sticking up for gay rights. Already, 53% of Americans support same-sex marriage, a sentiment that’s even higher among the coveted under-30 consumer. . . . Same-sex couples have been shown to out-earn and outspend opposite sex couples.”
Again, let’s look at exactly at what Barilla opposes: gay adoption. That’s hardly an extreme outlier position: 36 percent of Americans remain opposed to adoption by gay couples, according to a 2012 USA Today/Gallup poll. Nor, no matter what the Left would try to claim, is it settled whether it does or doesn’t matter to a child whether he or she is raised by a same-sex couple. In a Slate article last year, University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus outlined the results of his study comparing children who had lived in a same-sex household at some point to those who had not:
On 25 of 40 different outcomes evaluated, the children of women who’ve had same-sex relationships fare quite differently than those in stable, biologically-intact mom-and-pop families, displaying numbers more comparable to those from heterosexual stepfamilies and single parents. Even after including controls for age, race, gender, and things like being bullied as a youth, or the gay-friendliness of the state in which they live, such respondents were more apt to report being unemployed, less healthy, more depressed, more likely to have cheated on a spouse or partner, smoke more pot, had trouble with the law, report more male and female sex partners, more sexual victimization, and were more likely to reflect negatively on their childhood family life, among other things.
Regnerus acknowledges that correlation isn’t causation: His study doesn’t prove that same-sex parenting leads to more problems. But it certainly suggests that it might — which should give pause to those who eagerly decry anyone who questions whether same-sex parents are optimal for children.
In the ensuing uproar, Barilla has apologized, issuing a statement: “To all those who have been offended, including the thousands of employees and partners who work with Barilla around the world, I apologize for and regret my insensitive comments.” But it seems unlikely that his critics will be pacified until he features a same-sex couple parenting in ads — and that’s something the company shouldn’t compromise on. For the sake of the children, we should have a fair debate on whether same-sex couples make as good parents as male-female couples, not one driven by charges of bigotry and hate.
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO reporter.