To:

Mark Whitaker
Executive Vice-President
Managing Editor
CNN
Mark.Whitaker@Turner.com

Mr. Whitaker:

You appear to be in violation of journalistic ethics.

On the CNN site, you published an advertorial — by the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown – without marking the advertorial as an advertorial.

NOM is making money from its advertorial, while CNN simultaneously is making money off of major-company advertising that appears around the margins of NOM’s advertorial and in the banner space above it.

This would not be an ethics problem, necessarily, had you clearly marked the advertorial as an advertorial, instead of describing NOM’s Brian Brown as being “Special to CNN,” as though he were a reporter rather than what he really is, a businessman, like you.  For reference, see John Bethune’s post “Content’s Evil Twin; Advertorial.”

Note that you labelled NOM’s advertorial as a “story” and that you placed near the top left of the advertorial text, outtakes that you labelled “Story highlights.”  That certainly violates journalistic ethics, as this advertorial in its body text does not even remotely attempt to pretend it is “a story.”  The more one examines the evidence, the more it appears that CNN presented political advertising as though it were a “story.”

Many are the ways, actually, in which it is apparent that the NOM-CNN advertorial is, as a matter of fact, an advertorial, political advertising, a sales pitch for Brian Brown’s NOM, a politics-based business.

One identifying characteristic of an advertorial is an attempt to pass off fake news as real.

NOM’s advertorial is titled:  ”N.C. gay marriage vote spells the end of Obama.”  That was published on May 16. A Fox News poll conducted on May 15 had Obama leading Romney by 7 percentage points. No poll conducted that same week had Romney leading Obama outside the survey’s margin of error.

That Brian Brown used his advertorial headline to 1) deceptively exaggerate the national political portent of the amendment vote in North Carolina in order to 2) promote his business, NOM, is evident in 3) this phrase from his advertorial: “The National Organization for Marriage, which I head, helped lead the North Carolina campaign.”

Brown’s advertorial text, moreover, evidences obvious SEO (search engine optimization) techniques. The keyword “defining,”  for one example, with its close alternates “redefining” and “definition” occurs ten times in the text, at the intervals that SEO marketers typically describe as being optimal.

Often, advertorials are placed to promote a business, though there is no immediate opportunity for a patron to give that business money. Brown’s CNN advertorial, by contrast, was quickly re-published and linked to on the NOM site, where the “Donate!” tab is top center, and where Brown routinely publishes gay-bashing fund raising letters. The NOM blog re-published a portion of Brown’s advertorial and then linked back to the CNN site, where NOM blog readers could then participate in enriching CNN, through online advertising metrics — page views, click throughs, et cetera — that you doubtless understand quite well.



In addition to misleadingly labeling an advertorial as a “story” and describing the businessman behind that advertorial as “Special to CNN” as though he were a reporter rather than a businessman, there is the fact that you are in financial cahoots with an anti-gay hate group.  You should have heightened sensitivity to our outrage against NOM as an anti-gay hate group, because your own mother fled the Nazis – who wound up putting many gay people into concentration camps and killing them – and your African-American father then married her, though there was strong irrational prejudice against mixed-race couples, just as today, NOM is promoting hateful irrational prejudices against gay human beings, and making money off of bigots who are just constantly acting out their bullying non-acceptance of gay people.

NOM’s founder and chairman emeritus Robert George says that homosexuality is “beneath the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures.” That is not just any old notion; that is anti-gay hate speech. Brian Brown’s NOM colleague William C. Duncan, who works with NOM’s Ruth Institute, took part in an all-day anti-gay symposium, where the topic of his session was: ”Homosexuals or Homo Sapiens: Who Deserves Protected Class Status?” Again, that is not just any old idea; it is anti-gay hate speech.  It is a NOM leader — a business associate to Brian Brown — saying that gay people are not human. NOM’s business model depends on fanning the flames of irrational anti-gay hatred and of bullying non-acceptance of LGBTers to stimulate the dollar donations that fuel Brian Brown’s gay-bashing lifestyle.  Brian Brown and NOM organized an anti-gay rally for the Bronx in May, 2011, where a Brian Brown-approved speaker told the crowd that homosexuals are ”worthy to death.” That occurred just blocks away from where anti-gay bigots had kidnapped and tortured gay human beings. NOM made a fund-raising video with public school teacher Jerry Buell, an anti-gay bigot who told his class that homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the military, at the front lines with heterosexual soldiers deserting them from behind.

Brian Brown and NOM additionally propagandize against gay people by alleging that they and their relationships are against God and the Bible. Brown’s NOM-CNN advertorial is permeated with the hateful notion that only people who oppose gay rights can genuinely be “people of faith.”

If Brown and NOM followed the entire Bible verbatim, one might be able to dismiss them as extremist crackpots. Yet, they do not follow the Bible verbatim. The Bible says, for example, that adulterers must be put to death. (Deuteronomy 22:22).  In his advertorial, Brown actually writes about “what the creator said about marriage” and says that his “side” represents “what the creator said” while those in favor of equality do not.  Brown’s hypocrisy in that is glaring. Newt and Callista Gingrich by their own admissions were involved in adultery, yet instead of demanding for them to be put to death as per Deuteronomy 22:22, Brian Brown and NOM exploited the Gingrichs’s willingness to gay-bash politically, in order to attract more money to his gay-bashing enterprise, NOM.

When NOM extended its boycott of Starbucks into countries that have the death penalty for homosexuals, Care2 said this:

“NOM’s move to take this campaign international is not only a new low for the anti-gay group, it is potentially dangerous. LGBT rights in the Middle East are taboo and NOM risks actively promoting a climate of hostility against Starbucks employees and patrons that goes beyond just public disagreement. In several of the countries NOM is targeting, merely being perceived as gay has been enough for people to be imprisoned by law officials or even killed by fellow citizens. With this move NOM exposes the true depths it is willing to sink to in order to push its anti-gay agenda and also demonstrates its disregard for human life.”

The danger in which Starbucks puts gay people is seen in such phenomenon as a recent neo-Nazi attack against gay people in Ukraine.  Not by mere coincidence, when NOM campaigned against gay people in North Carolina — the topic of Brian Brown’s CNN advertorial, neo-Nazis were on NOM’s side.

To give you a yet stronger idea of the level of NOM’s irrational hatred and bullying non-acceptance of gay human beings, NOM Board Member Orson Scott Card has said this: “Marriage has only one definition and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down.”

NOM’s principals have a long-established record of sleaziness in publishing. Brown’s colleague in political gay-bashing, Maggie Gallagher, took money from the Bush administration to promote its anti-gay politicking, and then published op-ed articles against gay rights without telling readers that she had been paid to promote Bush’s anti-gay views.  When caught out in her clearly unethical behavior, he said “Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it? I don’t know. You tell me.“  There is, furthermore, no end to the outright, documentable lies that NOM tells to poison people’s minds against LGBTers. NOM’s Maggie Gallagher, repeatedly asked to explain why she has perpetrated all of those gay-bashing lies, has refused to comment.

After NOM was sued for violating campaign finance laws in Maine, a judge ordered the release of some of NOM’s internal strategy documents. Those documents describe plans to drive wedges between gay human beings and the African-American and Latino populations, and to fan hostilities among them, towards the end of strengthening the sexual orientation apartheid system. Perhaps most disturbingly, the NOM strategy documents detail a budget to get young people raised by gay parents to denounce their parents to the public. When NOM’s political strategy of pitting minorities against either was confirmed by NOM’s own strategy documents, former NAACP head Julian Bond said “It confirmed a suspicion that some evil hand was behind this.”

These are Brian Brown’s low-down, dirty and despicable tactics, which he plots and carries out as a shameless, gay-bashing, exploitative huckster even as he has the nerve to sign his letters “Yours in Christ.”

You are on notice, Mr. Whitaker, that NOM is to gay human beings what the KKK is to blacks and Jews, and that you appear to have violated journalistic ethics by publishing a NOM advertorial by Brian Brown on the CNN site without marking it as an advertorial. As long as Brian Brown’s NOM advertorial remains on your CNN site, you are in business cooperation with a hate group that says gays are not human and are “worthy to death.” You should remove Mr. Brown’s advertorial from your site immediately so as to cease your gay-bashing business relationship with Mr. Brown and NOM, and to eliminate the appearance that you do not care about bigots inciting to psychological and physical violence against innocent LGBTers.