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The Double Standard at CBS

There are already at least two Christian broadcasting channels, so there is no need for CBS to be a right-wing revival tent for the Super Bowl.

Now, before all the knees start jerking, I want to be clear that this pro-choicer has no problem in the abstract with CBS's decision to air an ad featuring Florida football star Tim Tebow. The ad, funded by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, features the decision by Tebow's mother to reject the advice of doctors to have an abortion when she was very sick while the future Heisman Trophy winner was in her womb. That story is an unqualified, beautiful individual testament to faith and love.

But Focus on the Family wants to twist the free choice of this mother into a political vehicle to eliminate choice for all other women. But not even that ultimately offends me. Where CBS bears false witness is the fact that they accepted that ad while rejecting a Super Bowl ad for a gay dating service. The ad starts with one man in a Green Bay Packers jersey and the other in a Minnesota Vikings shirt cheering against each other. It ends with them making out on the couch.

Taste could not have been a consideration for rejection, especially when Super Bowls ads counsel men on the best drugs for erections (always for women, of course). After the 1993 Super Bowl, where the ads were nonstop promos for movies of mayhem, I wrote, "There were so many guns, fights and limp bodies I thought I was tuning into Bosnia.'' Virtually all the dead, unconscious, mutilated and threatened victims in the promos were women.

Advertising experts speculate that CBS relaxed its prior resistance to well-heeled advocacy ads to compensate for the loss of some traditional Super Bowl industrial advertisers in the recession. All CBS itself could do was speak in tongues about why it rejected the gay ad while accepting the ad from the far right. On the gay ad, CBS said, "After reviewing the ad, which is entirely commercial in nature, our Standards and Practices department decided not to accept this particular spot.'' The same department deemed that the Family on the Focus ad was "responsibly produced.''

It is a double standard that fits a pattern. In 2004, CBS and NBC rejected an ad from the United Church of Christ welcoming gay and lesbian people into its congregations. Back then, CBS said, "Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact that the (Bush administration) has recently proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable.''

By accepting the Focus on the Family ad in this context, CBS gives its political blessing to an organization that spends tremendous energy specifically excluding gay couples from full citizenship, and, with its support of conservative Supreme Court nominees, opposes full equality for people of color and women. It is a window to the future under the court's bitterly divided 5-4 ruling that frees corporations to spend unlimited money on political campaigns.

The paranoia of CBS is particularly needless when Americans now overwhelmingly support gay and lesbian rights short of marriage. CBS looks even more ridiculous when Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this week declared that ending "don't ask, don't tell'' to let gay and lesbian soldiers serve openly is "the right thing to do,'' and former Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell recanted his 1990s opposition that led to the current "don't ask'' law.

It is particularly ironic when New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita told reporters this week he had no issue with broadcasting both the Tebow and the gay ad. "It's just me standing up for equal rights,'' Fujita said. He added, "Players are more tolerant than they get credit for.''

That is a lot more than can be said for CBS, where the C now stands for Chicken.

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