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Boston Herald reporter’s inflammatory comment sparks debate

by Sam Baltrusis

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday November 14, 2007

Move over Ann Coulter.

Michele McPhee, the Boston Herald's ace crime columnist and host of a daily two-hour radio talk show on WTKK, made an on-air comment on Tuesday, Nov. 13 that's raising a few red flags within the GLBT community.

The tell-it-like-it-is reporter, who returned to her Boston roots in 2004 after being the first female police-bureau chief at the New York Daily News, was chatting about the fashion industry's penchant for thin models.

After stereotyping the sartorially inclined by saying the industry is dominated by gay men, she made an off-the-cuff retort that could be construed as equating pedophilia with being gay.

McPhee quips: "And who do homosexual men like? Little boys."

When questioned by EDGE, the director of corporate communications from 96.9 FM's Greater Media, Heidi Raphael, sent a prepared release.

"Michele's comments were made in the context of a fashion industry that designs women's clothes for atypical body types," Raphael responds. "She regrets if her remarks were taken to mean anything else, as no other meaning was intended."

When questioned by a local reporter at Boston Magazine, McPhee claims the quote is taken out of context. However, WTKK's program director, Grace Blazer, has not released an audio clip of the questionable jab to either the media or the public.

The radio personality currently holds court as the Herald's tough-as-nails female crime reporter. The role, made famous by the street smart Michelle Caruso who left in 1994 for a gig on the West Coast, has been a staple for the One Herald Square tabloid.

"It's this kind of remark that got Don Imus taken off the air."

While McPhee doesn't have a history of spewing anti-gay venom, she does have a flair for inflammatory descriptions. In her Nancy Grace-style weekly column, she regularly refers to alleged perpetrators as "maggots" and takes a strong editorialized stance in support of the status quo.

Critics aren't convinced that the celebrated crime columnist and author of "Mob Over Miami" is a homophobe. However, they believe the on-air flub taps into a national debate.

In a detailed report from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the group scientifically deconstructs the false claims that gay people, particularly gay men, are more likely to abuse children.

The study, which cites several peer-reviewed studies that consistently found that the majority of men who sexually abuse children are heterosexual, concludes: "Any alleged link between pedophilia and homosexuality is completely unfounded."

Dr. Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst based in NYC, believes McPhee's comment--whether it was an unintentional remark or an intentional expression of anti-gay bias--could negatively impact public perception.

"It's this kind of remark that got Don Imus taken off the air," Drescher says.

"In terms of public perceptions, an unintentional off-the-cuff remark on a morning radio show, usually meant as a joke, plays to existing prejudices," he confirms. "In this case, it is only funny to those who think gay men are like pedophiles. For those who know this is not true, whether gay or straight people, it's obviously offensive."

Drescher continues, "To use the public airwaves to intentionally spread anti-gay propaganda (which many would consider a form of hate speech) may be legal under the First Amendment but it's a violation of the public trust."

EDITOR'S NOTE: On Friday, Nov. 16, McPhee apologized on her WTKK radio show. And on Saturday, the Boston Herald ran a follow up. Here's the link: www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/general/view.bg?articleid=1045267.

Sam Baltrusis has worked for WHDH-TV, CW56, MTV, VH1, Seventeen, Newsweek and as a regional stringer for The New York Times. He's currently a full-time freelance editor/writer based in Boston. Check out his blog at loadedgunboston.blogspot.com.