HRC Sends Letter Condemning CBS Late Show with David Letterman Skit, Asks for Apology

For Immediate Release

Contact: 
Brad Luna | Phone: 202/216.1514
Trevor Thomas | Phone: 202/216.1547

HRC Sends Letter Condemning CBS Late Show with David Letterman Skit, Asks for Apology

Late Show sketch includes “incendiary remarks” over Obama Administration’s first transgender appointment

WASHINGTON - The
Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender civil rights organization, sent the following letter today
to David Letterman and CBS Corp. in response to a Late Show sketch
mocking the appointment of Amanda Simpson to a senior position at the
U.S. Department of Commerce. 

Simpson,
who until recently was Deputy Director in Advanced Technology
Development at Raytheon Missile Systems and was a test pilot for 20
years, was appointed to be Senior Technical Advisor to the Department
of Commerce, where she will work directly with the Under Secretary of
Commerce on international trade and national security issues.
 
In a
skit during Letterman’s opening monologue, the host announced Simpson’s
historic appointment and revealed that she is transgender, displaying a
photograph of her.  The show’s announcer, Alan Kalter, then feigned
“trans panic,” implying he had some prior relationship with Simpson but
was not aware of her gender history, and ran yelling from the stage.
 
Letter from Human Rights Campaign Associate Director of Diversity for Transgender Issues Allyson Robinson:
 
January 6, 2010
 
David Letterman
Late Show with David Letterman
1697 Broadway
New York, NY 10001
 
CC:      Nina Tassler
            President, CBS Entertainment
            51 West 52nd Street
            New York, NY 10019
 
Dear Mr. Letterman,
 
          
I am writing on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s
largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights
organization, to express my disappointment over the inappropriate and
incendiary remarks made on The Late Show with David Letterman last night on the appointment of Amanda Simpson to a senior position in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
 
           
The decision to ignore the fact that Ms. Simpson is incredibly
well-qualified for this vital national security position and focus
instead on her gender identity reflects transphobia.  Ms. Simpson’s
appointment represents meaningful progress for the LGBT community and
in particular transgender Americans who have faced significant and
well-documented discrimination in the workplace and their communities.
 
           
You may not be aware that the punch line in your skit has been used as
a defense in nearly every hate crime perpetrated against transgender
people that has come to trial.  For example, the “trans panic” defense
was infamously used by Allen Ray Andrade, who was convicted in 2009 of
beating 19-year-old Angie Zapata to death with a fire extinguisher
after learning of her gender history.  According to media reports, it
has also been the main defense employed by Juan A. Martinez for the
killing of Jorge Steven López Mercado, 19, in Puerto Rico last November.
 
           
Your skit affirmed and encouraged a prejudice against transgender
Americans that keeps many from finding jobs, housing, and enjoying
freedoms you and your writers take for granted every day.  We ask that
you apologize publicly to Ms. Simpson and the transgender community for
this unfortunate episode.
 
Sincerely,
 
Allyson Robinson,
Associate Director of Diversity for Transgender Issues
Human Rights Campaign
###

The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of over 750,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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