by Rex Wockner
The board of directors of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation accepted the resignation of the organization’s president, Jarrett Barrios, on June 23. At the same time, eight board members resigned.
Barrios had been under fire from gay bloggers and journalists for sending a letter to the Federal Communications Commission supporting the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile as a good thing for LGBT people. AT&T is a donor to GLAAD.
He also took fire for an evolving story about a letter GLAAD had sent to the FCC last year that took AT&T’s side in opposing the FCC’s pending “Net neutrality” rules.
After GLAAD initially led some people to think that the anti-Net-neutrality letter had been a forgery, it was revealed that GLAAD had sent the letter and that the wording had come from AT&T.
Barrios initially said of the letter: “The letter has been submitted under my name and title without my permission. The signature is not in my hand. I have never seen this letter and it is not my signature.” See http://www.tinyurl.com/barrios2-3.
Barrios later said, however, that he had OK’d his assistant’s sending of the letter, without reading it, because he misunderstood which letter she was talking about.
The FCC’s Net neutrality rules would, in part, prevent Internet service providers, such as AT&T, from discriminating against, blocking, or slowing delivery of legal Internet content. Without the rules, AT&T and other ISPs could, in theory, interfere with something like Skype or accept money to relay some content through their pipes faster.
In resigning, Barrios said: “I have been pained by the difficulties that have beset GLAAD over the last three weeks. As you know, they concern GLAAD’s endorsement of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger – and inaccurate but effective characterizations that suggest GLAAD has supported this merger because of our relationship with them as a corporate sponsor. As many of you have observed to me, this entire situation is wrought with miscommunication and assumptions. Be that as it may, I respect the function and responsibility of my position, and know this is the right course of action. Of utmost concern and foremost in all of our minds must be the well-being of GLAAD. The staff continues to work hard and does not deserve to work under a cloud, nor do they merit the distraction that it has become from our organization’s fine brand.”
In a press release, GLAAD said it never intended to endorse AT&T’s position against Net neutrality.
“It has been inaccurately reported that GLAAD endorses AT&T’s position on net neutrality,” the statement said. “The organization does not endorse AT&T’s position. GLAAD believes that equal, fair and universal access to the Internet is vital to our community and to our national dialogue. While GLAAD does not take a position on particular legislation or regulations at this time, we continue to believe in the importance of adhering to these values.”
The members of the board who resigned, apparently for varying reasons, are Gary Bitner, Jocelyn Bramble, Troup Coronado, Kelly Dermody, Humberto Mata, Michael Nutt, James Walker and Randi Weingarten. From 2008 to 2010, Coronado was AT&T’s “lead executive in managing relationships with national LGBT organizations,” according to his now-deleted bio at glaad.org.
GLAAD’s chief operating officer, Mike Thompson, will serve as acting president until a replacement for Barrios is found.
Meanwhile, as the GLAAD-AT&T saga unfolded, it emerged that the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as well as Equality California, also sent anti-Net-neutrality letters to the FCC at the suggestion of AT&T.
NGLTF realized its mistake quickly, and retracted its Jan. 5, 2010, letter on Jan. 14, 2010. Equality California did not realize it had made a mistake until after the GLAAD scandal exploded. The group retracted its Oct. 12, 2009, letter on June 22, 2011.
At press time, it appeared that NGLTF and EQCA would not be damaged by the missteps, given their admissions of error and forthright retractions.
Coronado also resigned from the board of the Equality California Institute.