MetroWeekly is reporting that Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), has resigned. The news comes shortly after Ben Smith at Politico reported that GLAAD’s executive committee wanted Barrios to resign after a furor erupted over GLAAD’s support for AT&T in its regulatory battle with the FCC:
POLITICO’s Eliza Krigman reported recently that GLAAD was among a number of progressive groups with no obvious institutional interest in telecom issues who received money from AT&T and subsequently issued public statements supporting AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile. Another letter was sent from GLAAD to the FCC opposing possible net neutrality rules. GLAAD later rescinded the letter, claiming it was sent in error. The issue had created an uproar in the gay blogosphere.
Politico specifically quoted Pam Spaulding:
“Basically lodging an untruthful defense that jeopardizes the integrity of GLAAD overall — merited, in my opinion, the board consider that it was time for him to depart,” said blogger and activist Pam Spaulding, who runs the site Pam’s House Blend.
The Washington Blade has also been on top of the story and has a thoroughly reported backgrounder posted online now. The Blade notes, for instance, that GLAAD previously weighed in on the NBC-Comcast merger, “due to concerns about negative portrayals of LGBT characters in the media.”
The Blade report includes information about GLAAD’s financial situation, as well:
The AT&T statement was curious, but attracted little media attention.
That changed on Tuesday, when former GLAAD board of directors co-chair Laurie Perper appeared on Michelangelo Signorile’s Sirius-XM OutQ show to sound the alarm on other alleged improprieties at the organization and questions facing its leader, Jarrett Barrios.
Since then, Barrios — who has been at the helm of GLAAD for 23 months — has granted a flurry of interviews to counter Perper’s claims. His responses, however, have only served to attract more scrutiny of the organization.
While speaking with Perper, Signorile pressed about why she left her position as board chair early. “You stepped down because you just thought he was not qualified. Obviously, as the months went on, others agreed with that assessment,” Signorile summarized. “I believe that over 14 board members have left, [since Barrios took over],” Perper relayed to the radio host.
Signorile continued, “Is it fair to say that most of these people stepped down because of the direction the organization was going, because of Jarrett Barrios?”
“Absolutely,” Perper said.
Reached by phone last week along with GLAAD director of communications Richard Ferraro and GLAAD board member and Florida PR consultant Gary Bitner, Barrios insisted that his short time working with Perper — only five weeks — was marked by a positive working relationship, and was focused on solving the organization’s financial problems.
“It’s perplexing and disappointing, considering that she worked for many years to help build this organization, but this happens sometimes,” Barrios told the Blade. “We form in our movement a circular firing squad, and we for whatever reason feel it’s necessary to hurt somebody else in the movement. [Laurie Perper and I] worked well together. Frankly the time we interacted was the time I was getting my feet wet, learning that the org at the time was running a rather large deficit.”
Barrios insists that the financial figures that Perper presented on the Signorile show were inaccurate and misleading, including a quote about a $14 million discrepancy after 2008, which Barrios says is the result of an IRS reporting requirement of a major multi-million dollar bequest by the late Ric Weiland of Microsoft that was dispersed over seven years. GLAAD insists that it has righted its financial footing thanks to cuts made early in Barrios’ term, though Ferraro also disputes Perper’s claim that six senior staff members left the organization since Jarrett’s start. GLAAD insists it was only three, with another just having left a few months ago.
“In 2009, there was a substantial deficit — I think it was like $1.2 million,” Barrios said. “Last year, we cut the operating deficit to $300,000 — shrunk it by about $900,000 — and this year, I’m happy to say, we’re running ahead of budget … most notably, our national presenting sponsor has already renewed for next year. That typically doesn’t happen until January. It’s already happened for next year. We’re very pleased. Our corporate revenues this year are substantially higher than last year, which were higher than the year before.”
Also being discussed is the influence of GLAAD board member Troupe Coronado. Again, from The Blade:
What’s still unclear is how the suggested language ended up in an official letter on GLAAD letterhead. GLAAD would not comment on whom from AT&T delivered the suggested language, noting only that “AT&T is the source.” However, with a former AT&T lobbyist on the board of directors, who now consults for telecom companies including AT&T, some wonder if Troupe Coronado was the conduit for this “suggested language” that turned GLAAD into an anti-net-neutrality advocate for the telecom industry.
Also unanswered is how unauthorized language was allowed to be submitted by an assistant to a government agency. If this specific language was not approved, why was there no protocol in place to prevent a scenario where an employee of the organization can sign the president’s name to an official document and send it as an agent of the entire group?
There are also nagging questions about Troupe Coronado’s influence and role in the controversy. In January 2006, the Washington Post’s Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Thomas B. Edsall investigated Coronado for allegedly exceeding the gift-giving limits on lobbyists when schmoozing lawmakers. He was still with BellSouth at the time. BellSouth is now part of AT&T. In addition, OpenSecrets.org lists him as a “revolving door personnel,” someone who has bounced from industry lobbying jobs, to government jobs and back again.
Coronado’s connections to the telecom industry and GLAAD’s subsequent misfires in the field of telecom regulation and corporate dealings is troubling for many activists, even if those connections are tenuous and possibly only coincidental.
GLAAD is expected to issue a press release later Saturday in this remarkable, developing story.