Risch’s anti-gay backer tried to censor Idaho Public TVOct 21st, 2007 | By Jody May-Chang | Category: News
Frank VanderSloot (left) is a very wealthy man. His Melaleuca Corporation has netted him millions by placing him at the top of his own pyramid giving him enough cash to afford a Learjet that US Senate hopeful, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (right) uses to shuttle around Idaho.
VanderSloot also used his financial reserves in the fall of 1999 to propagandize his narrow-minded ideology in an advertising campaign aimed at attacking free speech. He took aim at Idaho Public Television (IPTV) when it planned to show “It’s Elementary,” a documentary that dared to show gays and lesbians as human beings to school children.
VanderSloot plastered his anti-gay propaganda on billboards around Idaho and promoted a campaign to strong-arm lawmakers to see things his way unless “It’s Elementary” was pulled from the public airwaves.
The censorship campaign eventually failed and the Idaho Legislature did not pull its funding from IPTV, but VanderSloot’s campaign resulted in a call for a nationwide boycott of his Melaleuca empire.
“It’s Elementary” was broadcast on Sept. 7, 1999, but in a later timeslot with the timid backing of former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.
Travis Riggs, editor of Diversity News, was serving on the board of the Idaho Youth Network (IYN) at the time and leading the call for the Melaleuca boycott. Riggs also was part of a panel discussion during a live call-in program hosted by IPTV.
Riggs was joined on the set by Ed Vitigliano, American Family Association; Ryan Kerby, New Plymouth School District; and Connie Collins, Idaho Counseling Association.
“It is the duty of every educator in our schools to validate every child’s life. If that child is gay or has gay parents and our educators do not validate him/her, then we have done irreparable damage to the child and a great disservice to our community.” Riggs said in a Nov. 11, 1999, IYN news release.
“Your bigotry, intolerance and proliferation of misinformation and stereotypes about gay people cannot go unnoticed. Your attack against our families will not be ignored,” Riggs wrote in a letter to VanderSloot (Nov. 11, 1999)
A half-dozen lawmakers and VanderSloot met for two hours with IPTV on Aug. 20, 1999, in an attempt to intimidate the station by threatening to have its funding pulled.
The Idaho State Journal in Pocatello published an editorial describing the campaign against IPTV as “eerily similar to the attacks in past years on the National Endowment for the Arts.”
The rightwing fanatics like VanderSloot used “It’s Elementary” to complain about other programs.
Rep. Thomas Loerscher was offended by the recent dramatization of the adulterous Madame Bovary and objected to past documentaries that “brutally attacked” agriculture by questioning practices of grazing on public lands, according to the Idaho Falls Post Register. Sen. Stan Hawkins complained about nudity in the famous 1865 painting “Olympia,” featured in the PBS series Culture Shock. – Current, April 3, 2000.
While Risch enjoys first-class comfort aboard VanderSloot’s jet, it may be time to awaken the Idaho media from its coma and insist that the press take a closer look at just where this Senate hopeful is getting his financial backing.
The man who lets Risch to fly the friendly skies of the lunatic fringe on his Learjet is the same man who will use his resources from his legal pyramid scheme to censor what Idaho citizens see on public television.
“It’s Elementary” – documentary
This is the PBS program that Frank VanderSloot, Melaleuca CEO, tried to ban from Idaho Public Television.
VanderSloot is a major financial supporter for Lt. Gov. Jim Risch’s campaign for the US Senate. Does Jim Risch hate gays and lesbians as much as VanderSloot? Does Jim Risch believe in censoring public television? And finally, just how much is Risch paying to use that Learjet?
Jody May-Chang now writes on "As I See It...Reporting from the front lines