KGO’s Pete Wilson (pictured) has learned this week how far a broadcaster can go when criticising something local gay leaders feel is important. In the end, Wilson issued a partial apology and then a target of his attack said he didn’t want Wilson fired. The episode also raised the issue of whether a TV news anchor, who is seen by the public as objective, can also serve as a radio talk show host, where the host’s opinions are key to the success of a show.
The controversy began Monday night when KGO-TV reporter Carolyn Tyler did a story about gay San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose friend, lesbian Rebecca Goldfader, delivered a baby girl last week. (Photo at right by Kat Wade of the Chronicle.) Dufty and Goldfader plan to date other people in the future, but intend raise the child as “co-parents.” The baby arrived a month before Dufty faces re-election and the parents posed for another picture which was circulated in Dufty’s district via e-mail over the weekend.
Wilson introduced Tyler’s story without any editorial comments on KGO-TV. But the next day, he made it a topic on his 2-4 p.m. KGO-AM 810 radio show. “The Dufty-Goldfader baby is, in my mind, a travesty. Or a potential travesty. Perhaps that’s a better way of saying it,” Wilson said on his radio show. At a Thursday noon news conference, city leaders including supervisor Tom Ammiano and several LGBT leaders called for Wilson to resign. Some used the term “hate speech” to describe Wilson’s comments. Two hours later, at the beginning of his radio show Thursday, Wilson said he will not apologize for his comments, but he said he was sorry for the way he said them.
“I let some of my argument move toward the personal. Some of it was inappropriate, some was talk radio sarcastic cheap-shotting, and I did it several times. That was wrong and unfortunate,” Wilson said. “I still believe the argument is a perfectly appropriate argument. I think the argument needs to take place about the number of directions we have gone with parenting and children.”
Wilson said his job was in jeopardy: “I’ve been in the TV news business 35 years; I watch how things happen,” he told the Chronicle. “All you’ve got to do is look at the Foley case, and you know how stuff becomes larger than life. It’s entirely up to ABC 7 if they want me to resign; KGO will not ask me to resign.”
KGO, both its TV and radio stations, said they would not fire Wilson. Wilson co-anchors KGO-TV’s 6 p.m. newscast which has the more viewers than any other newscast at that hour, the Chronicle said, reaching about 78,000 households in May.
Late Thursday, Dufty sent an e-mail to Wilson and the media saying: “In no way do I want to see you resign or lose your position over this incident … It troubles me that we live in a time of disposability. In other words, that people in public life, press, etc., make a mistake and then have no choice but to resign. I make mistakes and will undoubtedly make them in the future. I try to admit to them and learn from them.”