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"Dr. Laura" Debuts

About 200 activists protested Monday outside the Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, where Schlessinger’s show was being taped. Similar demonstrations cropped up in 30 other cities, where protesters decried Schlessinger’s past references to homosexuals as “biological errors” and “deviants.”

“Dr. Laura” steered clear of homosexuality during her inaugural program, focusing instead on teenage drug use.

As it debuted on television stations nationwide, Schlessinger’s program lost another sponsor to the controversy. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. told The New York Times it is pulling its advertising from the show.

Pressure from gay rights groups has caused at least 26 other companies to cancel their sponsorship of Schlessinger’s radio and television shows.

A spokesman for the program told Reuters the show was “fully sponsored,” but refused to elaborate further.

In a statement Tuesday, executives from Paramount, which syndicates the program, said they are committed to free speech, while refuting charges Schlessinger promotes intolerance.

“With the production of Dr. Laura’s television show, and all of Paramount’s current programming, we are committed to presenting society’s moral and ethical issues without creating or contributing to an environment of hurt, hate or intolerance,” the statement said.

But Joan Garry, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, told The Online NewsHour in June that a Schlessinger television show means the dissemination of more misinformation about homosexuals.

“The real danger of Schlessinger’s words is that all of her opinions (including her prejudicial ones) are regarded with equal credibility by most of her audience,” Garry said. “[Schlessinger’s] credibility on some issues should not automatically transfer to her misinformation on sexual orientation issues – and her audience easily can accept as fact her discredited, divisive opinions about lesbians and gay men.”

Schlessinger’s radio program, which vaulted her to national prominence, is broadcast on more than 450 radio stations and boasts an audience of 18 million listeners.