CATEGORIES Documentary, Independent, New Releases, Celebrities and Controversy, Politics, Movie News, New Releases, CinematicalKirby Dick's new documentary Outrage, which premiered at Tribeca last month and opened theatrically last week, is an exposé of U.S. politicians, like Larry Craig, who spew anti-gay rhetoric and vote against gay rights while secretly living gay lives themselves. As you'd imagine, the film has sparked some controversy -- but who would have guessed it would cause problems at liberal NPR?
As first reported by IndieWIRE on Monday, NPR ran a positive review of the film by Nathan Lee, who, in the course of discussing the film, named some of the specific politicians whose hypocritical double lives the film investigates, including former New York City mayor Ed Koch and current Florida governor Charlie Crist. When the review was published, though, Lee was surprised to find that the NPR editors had removed those names from it. Incensed, Lee had his byline removed from the review, too.
An NPR representative told IndieWIRE that this decision was made because "NPR has a long-held policy of trying to respect the privacy of public figures and of not airing or publishing rumors, allegations and reports about their private lives unless there is a compelling reason to do so."
Two obvious problems with that statement spring to mind.
First of all, the whole point of Outrage is that there IS a compelling reason to discuss these people's private lives. Their voting records, the film says, do harm to the gay community -- a community that they are secretly a part of. Lee told IndieWIRE, "Let's say Charlie Crist had a record of voting for vigorous anti-immigration policies, and then it was rumored that he employed illegal immigrants. The press would have absolutely no qualms investigating him to the hilt in the public interest of exposing hypocrisy. Why should it be any different in the case of possibly gay public figures who vote against the civil rights of gay people?"
That goes along with another one of the film's points, which is that for some reason the mainstream media -- which has no problem scrutinizing every single other aspect of politicians' lives -- refuses to talk about anti-gay elected officials who are secretly gay. Nearly everything reported by Dick in the documentary has already been reported elsewhere, but only by alternative newspapers and bloggers. The big voices -- including NPR, apparently -- won't touch the subject.
The other problem with NPR's explanation -- "NPR has a long-held policy of trying to respect the privacy of public figures and of not airing or publishing rumors, allegations and reports about their private lives unless there is a compelling reason to do so" -- is that if this is indeed a long-held policy, then NPR has a lousy track record on following it. Kyle Buchanan at Movieline points out that NPR ran a story speculating on American Idol frontrunner Adam Lambert's sexuality -- and, in fact, mocked other news outlets for not coming out and saying that Lambert is gay, even though Lambert himself won't talk about it publicly. (The evidence of his gayness is no more "official" than that of Craig's, Koch's, or Crist's.) And last November, after Wanda Sykes officially came out of the closet, NPR talked about whether Queen Latifah -- another not-gonna-talk-about-it celebrity -- would ever do the same.
Maybe the most absurd part of all this, to me, is that it's not like Lee's review was doing any speculating of its own. All he did was report what the subject matter of Outrage was. If anyone's "speculating," it's the people who made the movie, not Lee, and not NPR. So what's the problem? And why is it OK to "speculate" that Adam Lambert and Queen Latifah are gay, but not Ed Koch, Charlie Crist, and Larry Craig? Maybe Kirby Dick's next documentary should be about exposing hypocrisy at NPR.