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article imageWestboro calls off Tucson protest in exchange for radio airtime

By Kim I. Hartman     Jan 13, 2011 in Politics
Topeka - Westboro Baptist Church leaders have cancelled plans to protest at the funerals of the victims of the fatal shootings in Tucson, Arizona in exchange for radio airtime on a number of stations including a nationally syndicated radio talk show.
The group had planned to picket Thursday’s funeral for nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green and Friday's funeral for federal Judge John M. Roll as we previously reported. Green and Roll are two of six people who were killed Saturday in a shooting rampage that left Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords hospitalized and fighting for her life.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a church spokeswoman, said "the pickets had been called off after radio talk show host Mike Gallagher offered to have her on his radio program Monday," reports the Topeka Capital-Journal. Phelps-Roper said "the decision boiled down to the church being able to communicate its message with as wide an audience as possible." She said "Gallagher's radio audience is estimated to be about 10 million people."
Westboro Church said in a news release: "WBC to appear on the Mike Gallagher Radio Show, 11AM–12PM on Monday., JAN. 17, in lieu of picketing the funerals of those killed in the Tucson shooting spree, where God executed judgement for this cursed nation's rebellion at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' political meet. "Congress on the Corner?" It's time for "God on the Airwaves."
Phelps-Roper also negotiated separate agreeements to be a guest on two other radio programs, including KXXT-AM in the Phoenix, Arizona area in Tolleson, on "The Steve Sanchez Show" on Saturday Jan. 15, reports Politics Daily.
The outspoken Phelps-Roper, who appeared on 102.1 The Edge in Toronto, Canada, on Tuesday, Phelps-Roper agreed to call off the protest outside the funeral of 9-year-old Christina if host Dean Blundell permitted her to talk on the air about her church's views. The Toronto Sun said she was also to appear a second time on morning show today at 9am.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is speaking out against the deals struck between the Phelps' family church group and the three radio stations and have said in a statement on their website: "For more than 20 years, the Westboro Baptist Church has cynically and maliciously exploited the suffering of countless brave and patriotic American families by protesting the funerals of innocent victims and fallen heroes. Giving airtime to this malicious group is like negotiating with terrorists. Except in this case, Westboro is being incentivized by being provided with an outlet to broadcast their hate to thousands of others."
GLAAD is collecting signatures on a petition to deliver to the radio station programming directors to "stop broadcasters from granting one of the most anti-American groups in the country," with radio airtime delivered to an audience of millions. "Rewarding hateful behavior doesn’t work." says the GLADD petition, "and I call on you to immediately rescind your offer of airtime to the Westboro Baptist Church."
Gallagher said he used this deal in the past when negotiating with the members of Westboro Baptist Church. “No question it’s a painful process,” Gallagher told the Associated Press of allowing Phelps-Roper on his show. “Believe me, I’m doing this show with a heavy heart. I don’t like the idea of giving them the satisfaction of this, but I believe my radio airwaves are less important than them hurting families.”
“For all of the accusations that talk radio is so destructive and the claims that vitriol of conservatives has led to Jared Lee Loughner’s actions, here’s an example of talk radio doing something I think is pretty good— to stop families from being harmed by the Phelps's,” Gallagher said. “Nothing else has seemed to work.”
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