Jeff Gaspin: NBC is progressive on diversity

Comments made as sister studio under fire from GLAAD

NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin was feted at Thursday night's Anti Defamation League Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, just as sister studio Universal was under fire for its trailer for "The Dilemma."

At the dinner, he touted NBC's progressive stance on homosexuality as the first network to air a gay kiss (in a 1991 episode of "L.A. Law") and how it embraces diversity.

"Done right, television at its finest can help break down stereotypes and help us all find and appreciate our common humanity," Gaspin said in his speech. He also spoke of the "opportunity we have in this business to stand up to hate and to call for our greater good: promoting tolerance, understanding and human dignity."

NBC is one of the only broadcast networks with black leads on its primetime schedule, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe on "Undercovers" and Blair Underwood on "The Event."

Meanwhile, Universal announced in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday -- the morning after the dinner -- that it was pulling a trailer from "The Dilemma" in which Vince Vaughn calls electric cars "gay." The was under pressure from GLAAD, which said the comedy sent "a message of intolerance." (Anderson Cooper had also criticized the film on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show.)

By coincidence, at the same time as the Gaspin dinner, an episode of "30 Rock" aired in which Alec Baldwin, who plays fictional NBC exec Jack Donaghy, is forced to defend the network's merger with Kabletown against a senator (played by guest star Queen Latifah) who criticizes the network for not having enough black stars. (Watch clips from the episode.)

To read the full text of Gaspin's remarks at the dinner Thursday night, go to the next page.


Thank you.

It's an honor to receive this award and join the ranks of past honorees who have done such important work at the intersection of the creative community and ADL's efforts to promote tolerance and respect.

What an extraordinary organization and worthy cause that brings us together this evening.

I want to start by thanking the ADL and everyone who has joined us here tonight.

Thank you to my colleagues Bonnie Hammer, Jeff Zucker and Ron Meyer for their continued support and for serving as the honorary co-chairs for this special event.

Thanks to Howie and Zach, who are always so supportive of me both personally and professionally.

And of course to Michael Grimm for his performance tonight, especially since he's performing at the Nokia Theater this evening as well.

And I'm so grateful to my family for their unwavering support and inspiration they give me every day.

(Pause)

I'm truly proud of that NBC Universal history we just saw.

It's a core reason I love being a part of the television community.

Done right...television at its finest...can help break down stereotypes and help us all find and appreciate our common humanity.

And I'm grateful to ADL for having this annual event that recognizes this unique role...and for the opportunity we have in this business....to stand up to hate and to call out to our greater good...promoting tolerance, understanding and human dignity.

I want to take a minute and explain why I accepted this very special award tonight.

I generally don't like to lend my name to an organization I am not that involved in on a regular basis.

But after spending quite a bit of time with the team from ADL discussing different topics related to tolerance and hate, I realized there is a very important reason for me to be here tonight.

In our conversations, I mentioned how I thought my kids' generation appeared to be growing up in a world with a greater acceptance of diversity, after all it's a generation that didn't blink in being a driving force behind the election of the nation's first African American President.

But the team at ADL quickly pointed out how the Internet has actually made hate much more prevalent in the world today, how it's making it much easier for people to say hateful things in an anonymous way.

This really struck a chord with me and is a message I wanted to make sure we are all aware of. We don't realize how hateful some of the things we read are.

And we are guilty just for reading it, more so for gossiping about it and not speaking out against it.

I don't mean to make it all sound negative; there are a lot of positive virtues to the internet.

My wife and I just sent our son off to college...

It was such a different experience for him than when we went to school.

Before he even set foot on campus, he had 60 new friends...the power of social networking. New town. New school.

And from day one, he's not alone. He's got friends. Instead of being homesick, he spent his first few days looking up the dozens of people he'd friended over the summer.

That's incredible and exciting.

But there are also new challenges...a new world where you don't have to look people in the eye when you speak to them...a world where you can say the most hateful things--true or untrue, fair or unfair--under the cover of anonymity for all the world to see.

It's a world that dazzles us all on a daily basis with its ability to bring people together...build communities...and connect for the common good, like it did for my son.

But it also presents new tools...and new temptations...for those with hate in their hearts.

It's a fine line...

On one hand, we have a growing number of cases where words lead to actions...young people at a vulnerable age driven to despair and even suicide...upending the old adage about sticks and stones.

Look at the recent tragedy at Rutgers University, where a student took his own life after secrets were revealed online.

On the other hand, you have fundamental issues of free speech, something we revere in the creative community...and as Americans.

There are no easy answers...only hard work and persistent vigilance.

Into this void--every day--steps ADL.

Theirs is a simple and profound mission: "to secure justice and fair treatment to all."

For nearly a century, ADL has been a champion and guardian of tolerance. And, now it is taking the fight into the online world...standing up to hate...working with the technology community...going into schools and talking to young people...championing anti-bullying laws, which we now have in 42 states...tracking groups that organize online and present a very real threat here in the U.S. and around the world.

It's so much easier to hate from a cool and secretive distance...with a few clicks of the keyboard, people share feelings they might otherwise have kept to themselves.

It's an interesting 'chicken and egg' question: Are we getting more hateful...or simply more honest?

This dehumanizing effect seeps broadly into our culture today. Many of us who are public figures have witnessed at least some mild form of this rush to extremes.

I've watched it happen to my colleagues. And I've experienced it myself.

Too often, we see it in journalism today, especially for us in this room, the reporting on the media sector and the unending race to be first...

A lot of the journalism now covering the media industry has turned angry, with the proliferation of blogs and websites devoted to our business. And it's not just hateful stories, but the nameless postings that follow afterwards. They are often hurtful, dangerous and sometimes even destructive.

And frankly, that's a mild example compared to the real deal...hate based on religion...on race...a bully you can't leave behind if you make it safely to your doorstep because he...or she...is waiting in your room on your computer.

There's a meanness that too often can creep into the way we talk to one another. And frankly, so many of us are growing tired of it, especially with so many other important issues currently facing us as a nation.

So what do we do?

We can resist...

We resist by supporting the work of ADL. We resist as a creative community by thinking about the choices we make...the stories we tell...and how we do our work.

And, we resist by standing up to bad speech...with good speech...with humanity...with compassion.

So that is why I agreed on behalf of NBC Universal and my family, to accept this award and deliver this important message.

I thank you for this honor tonight. I'm proud of the contributions of NBC Universal. I'm tremendously grateful to ADL for all of its leadership and vigilance--and to all of you for supporting its important work.

Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus