Dr. Laura's Dinner With Gay, Black Friends
While trying to make a point about racism, Laura Schlessinger said the N-word over and over during a call last week, setting off a firestorm of criticism. This week she said, come December, she'd end her long-running radio show, The Dr. Laura Program. She spoke to THR about the controversy and anything else that came up.
The Hollywood Reporter: Are your sponsors and affiliates under constant attack, or only when controversy erupts?
Laura Schlessinger: Only when things erupt. Otherwise, we're all happy campers. I do good shows, I help people, and the sponsors get what they pay for.
THR: What's your opinion of the sponsors who cave into the pressure?
Schlessinger: Sponsors are companies and companies are made of people. I totally understand. I don't get mad. They're supporting their families. That's the problem -- situations where companies, sponsors, affiliates are injured by special-interest groups that don't want to debate an issue, they just want to eliminate a voice.
THR: What do you think of Media Matters, then, which really got the ball rolling against you this time?
Schlessinger: An organization whose existence depends on the principle of eliminating opposing opinions is very dangerous.
THR Did you hand them a victory by quitting?
Schlessinger: I didn't quit because of this, per se. It's a victory for nobody when a voice is silenced. But I have a million and a half other venues. I decided that I wanted to be able to express myself in a situation where I didn't have sponsors and affiliates and employees threatened.
THR: Your employees were threatened?
Schlessinger: I'm not going to talk about that.
THR: Were you ever threatened with bodily harm?
Schlessinger: I'm not going to talk about that.
THR: What offers do you have on the table now?
Schlessinger: It's too early to talk about it. But I'm pleased to see doors are opening. It's clear to me I can take my voice to several places, so I feel good inside my soul.
THR: Why not take your show to Sirius XM?
Schlessinger: That's an option. I own thousands of hours of my shows, so I'm looking to do something with that: Internet streaming, podcasting, searchable database, satellite radio. I've got a million things I can do with the hours of my show I own, much less be live. I've had a website since 1997, and last week the traffic went up 311%, and the blog traffic went up 634%. I'm also the first major talk-show host with a YouTube channel. Already 10% of our revenue comes from new media. But this isn't about money, it's about continuing to help people and express my First Amendment rights.
THR: Is it possible to summarize your overall message in a sentence or two?
Schlessinger: Do the right thing ... regardless of pressures, fears, weaknesses. Life is ultimately better for yourself and for everyone if you focus on doing the right thing.
THR: Your detractors disagree with that?
Schlessinger: You'd have to ask them.
THR: Were you in a bad mood that day you used the N-word while talking to the caller, Jade?
Schlessinger: No. And I'm post-menopausal, so there were no hormonal surges, either.
THR: Have you spoken to Jade since then?
Schlessinger: No. I made the offer on the air the next day. I apologized the same night it happened, it was published the next day, and I went on the air and apologized and asked for her to call so I could do a darn better job of being helpful.
THR: Who on radio do you like?
Schlessinger: Dave Ramsey, because he talks about stuff I have no clue about. My idea of budgeting is if I have money in my purse I can spend it, and if I don't then I can't, which would be two seconds on radio and one page in a book. I also like Michael Medved -- he stands up for values.
THR: What was the low point of your career?
Schlessinger: I've been on for 32 years and have gone through so much tumult. But I don't consider any of that a low point. I sail. Even though I'm having a beautiful experience on the water, you go up and down the waves. But all in all, it's God's gift to be out there. I've had a great time. ... The only thing that pops into my mind as a low point is my husband having sudden death. But he didn't die. He hit the ground and it jump-started his heart. He had six bypasses and a defibrillator. I had a hard time coping and went down to 95 pounds because all I ate was a half-cup of Cheerios each day. Going to the hospital, trying to keep my kid OK and going on the air to do my job -- and having some talk-show hosts make fun of me for having panic attacks and ending up in the hospital. Yeah. That was the low point. Yeah.
THR: I know people who work in Hollywood -- some celebrities even -- who are fans of your show but won't say so out loud. What's up with that?
Schlessinger: You'd have to ask them.
THR: Have you ever said anything on air that you didn't believe?
THR: The comment about homosexuality being a "biological error"?
Schlessinger: I never called anybody a biological error. What I said, very clearly -- and to GLAAD's credit they put it on their website -- I said, gays and lesbians have as much compassion, intelligence, ability, warmth as anybody else -- comma -- the inability to sexually match up male and female is a biological error. That's it. I didn't say people were a biological error. I said male parts and female parts make babies. I was talking biologically. The interesting thing is that gay groups have made the point that it's not a moral issue, it's a biological issue. I was really supporting their point of view.
THR: Can you sum up your position on same-sex marriage?
Schlessinger: I'm pretty traditional. I also believe men should pay for dates. That a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, can have a loving, healthy relationship is positive for society and for them individually. We're human creatures that need bonding. I just feel marriage is a sacred situation between a man and a woman. But I'm all for domestic partnerships. I had a gay caller the other day. The woman was complaining that the woman she was living with was spending money without telling her. I asked, "Do you have a domestic partnership?" She said no. And I said, "She doesn't owe it to you to tell her where her money is going. Until you two have a committed, domestic partnership, hey, you're just two single people." So I deal with these issues the exact same way with straights or gays.
THR: Have you been out in public lately?
Schlessinger: I went out to dinner with three friends after Larry King. One of my friends who is gay is sitting there with another friend who is black, and he looks up and says, "I wonder what the media would do with this? You're with a black guy and a gay guy." We laughed, because we all understand what this is really about -- censoring a point of view.
THR: What's the biggest problem in America today?
Schlessinger: How hateful rhetoric has become. If you want to immerse yourself in the horrors of hell, go on the Internet. A colleague of mine said, "I expected nasty things to appear about you, but what really horrified me is the discussions at the end of the articles." The amount of hatred instead of discussion is frightening.
THR: And problems in Hollywood?
Schlessinger: When I was young, we didn't know when stars did bad things because they were protected. We'd look up at them through war times or whatever, and it would give us entertainment, solace, peace, fun. It was nice. Now what you get out of Hollywood is ugly stuff -- drugs, sexual exploits, vicious and crazy rants. It's not a place to look for peace and solace anymore.
THR: On your TV show 10 years ago, did you really have a staffer pose as a guest?
Schlessinger: I guess so, but I never knew it. I found out by reading about it. I called up a producer and said, "What the hell was that? Is that true?" She said, "Yes, but the lady really had a problem." I said, "Did it occur to you that that looks set up?" It was ridiculous. You'd think that the host has control, but no.
THR: How do you answer critics who say you shouldn't be giving advice because you've had affairs and ...
Schlessinger: Affairs! What affairs? That's all trumped-up nonsense. And the nude pictures -- the ones that show me from the top up -- those are me. The other ones, the really naughty ones, I don't know how they did it. That's good Photoshopping. The only regret I have is that at the time I didn't think I was cute. Now I look back and say, "Damn, I was cute!"
THR: No affairs with married men? No out-of-wedlock pregnancy?
Schlessinger: Of course not. Out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Somebody said that?
THR: It's on your Wikipedia page.
Schlessinger: Oh. Oh. Yes. Of course. That's the source of truth? Anybody can put anything on there!
THR: But it's footnoted.
Schlessinger: So it's footnoted to somebody else who made it up. I remember "All the President's Men," where they had to find three good sources before they could say anything. Journalism has left that way behind. Does Wikipedia say I have any illegitimate kids?
THR: It says you were pregnant before your marriage.
Schlessinger: Since it is public record when I was married and when Deryk was born at full term, it's a little hard to say that, don't you think? That's a simple thing to look up because it's public record.
THR: So when your detractors say, "Who are you to give advice ... ?"
Schlessinger: My favorite kind of letters I get is, "I hated your guts. And then I matured. Now, I love you." It's like kids who think their parents are stupid and then as they get older they realize their parents weren't stupid. I don't do my show as a popularity contest; I'm really damn trying to help. Uh-oh. I said the D-word. If I have to get people nervous and upset to help them, I'll do it, because I am hell-bent -- that's the H-word -- on helping people.
THR: What do you think of stars saying good riddance to you -- Kathy Griffin, Kevin Nealon, Howard Stern?
Schlessinger: Every time one of them opens their mouth and says something that cruel, they are proving my point. Why should my voice not be heard? Because they don't agree with what I say?
THR: Do you and Stern have some sort of feud going?
Schlessinger: He has one with a million different people he doesn't like. He spends his life trying to hurt people. That's his thing. I don't engage in that.
THR: Should Stern be off the air?
Schlessinger: If there are people who want to hear his voice, no. I'm not for censorship and silencing. I'm for dialogue and debate and the American way, where people hear both sides and make up their minds. The other people you mentioned are shamefully proving my point about what's happening to the First Amendment in America.
THR: So, then, would you debate Stern on his show, or on your show?
Schlessinger: I really wouldn't, because he isn't interested in an honest debate. If he were, then in the past 30 years he would have engaged in them. I'd engage in a realistic debate with someone who realistically wanted a realistic debate. Although I'm not good at debating -- I'm much better at pontificating.
THR: What's next for you?
Schlessinger: I have a book coming in January called "Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land)," dealing with betrayal and revenge. I'm going to have fun with that. You'll probably want to talk to me then. The other cute thing is that next month I'm going to be an app. "Dr. Laura's Moral Compass." You ask it questions about relationships, like that Magic 8-Ball game.
THR: You got any favorite TV shows?
Schlessinger: "NCIS." I didn't discover it until reruns. I was going through the channels and saw Mark Harmon and said, "Oh, I'll look at this." And now I'm in love with the characters and the writing. The characters are like a family. Like with "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." I watched that last segment and cried my brains out because they managed to create a feeling that you let them in your living room, and that you knew them and cared about them. That's how I feel about "NCIS." I love that show.
THR: How about a favorite movie?
Schlessinger: Do I have to tell you the truth? It's "Kill Bill" volumes one and two, because I'm a martial artist. The fight scenes were amazing. All that samurai stuff -- amazing!
THR: I still have nightmares about that buried-alive scene.
Schlessinger: Yeah. I was wondering, "How is she getting out of this one?" That poor woman got so slammed up -- even shot in the head, and she managed to survive. Uma Thurman was beyond fabulous in that.
THR: Anything in pop culture you hate nowadays?
Schlessinger: Oh, yeah, all that kind of music that talks about rape, murder, killing people, hating women. I don't like the evil stuff. Our children hear that and it becomes normalized. That's sad. It hurts our children soooo much. I just love it when a G-rated movie comes out and it makes more money than anything. It's like, "Hello Hollywood, this is how you make money. You put out quality, sweet things." You remember "Up"? That was adorable. That's what Hollywood should be doing, not grossing people out. Except for the "Kill Bill" and "Godfather" movies. I'm sorry. In a past life, I must have been a samurai or something.
THR: Which Hollywood star might benefit from your advice?
Schlessinger: I'm embarrassed to say, I don't pay attention to that.
THR: No one leaps to mind? Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, maybe?
Schlessinger: In general, people ought to police themselves, which is what I did. They shouldn't wait for the brouhaha. When you know you've done something wrong, own it. Take responsibility. Repair it. Do what you can to not repeat it. Like I tell parents who call me, "Are your kids apologizing because they did something wrong or because you're going to take their iPod away?"