Letterman under fire from HRC, GLAAD over transgender joke


LGBTQ Nation

The HRC and GLAAD issued statements today condemning a sketch on CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman Tuesday night, which mocked the appointment of Amanda Simpson to a senior position at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Last night we posted (via Facebook) the skit during the opening monologue, when Letterman 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.

In a letter to CBS and Letterman, the HRC writes:

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.

Said GLAAD in its statement:

Depicting people reacting in horror to transgender individuals is a dangerous stereotype for popular media to perpetuate because it contributes to the societal conception of transgender people as abnormal and deceptive, which all-too-often results in anti-transgender violence and/or discrimination when played out in reality.

The sketch, in case you missed it:

This Story Filed Under