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California and the West

NAACP's Stance on `Survivor'

September 13, 2006|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

The president of the NAACP, who is also a CBS Corp. board member, said Tuesday that this season's premise for the broadcaster's hit series "Survivor" -- separating contestants by race -- was "a bad idea."

But Bruce Gordon added that a resulting furor about the concept had gotten out of hand, and was out of proportion to the show's significance amid more important issues facing minorities, both in the entertainment arena and in society at large.

"There are countless race abuses that exist in the entertainment community every day," Gordon said. "For the media to give airtime to the format of a TV show when it is silent on the absence of African Americans on Sunday morning news shows is shameful."

"Survivor: Cook Islands" debuts Thursday. As in the series' previous seasons, "tribes" of contestants are pitted against one another in the wilds.

While editorial pages and the Internet have been swarming with chatter about the newly segregated reality show, Gordon has been conspicuously absent from the discussion.

Some minority leaders expressed concern that the NAACP's silence was the result of Gordon's CBS position.

"There should have been disclosure that he sits on the board," said Gwen Crider, executive director of the National Multicultural Institute, a nonprofit group that promotes minority inclusion in businesses. "At the very least, there could be speculation that this is the reason we have not heard from him."

But in an interview, Gordon weighed in, taking on both "Survivor" and its critics. He said he had not previously engaged in the controversy because he wanted to fully examine the situation.

"I decided not to get caught up in a knee-jerk reaction," Gordon said. "I wanted to think about it, to explore what made sense."

In a statement issued by the NAACP on Tuesday, the organization said it was "premature to judge the show purely on conjecture."

But in that statement, and in previous remarks in June asserting that the TV industry had failed to honor its commitment to diversity, Gordon's membership on the CBS board was not mentioned.

"My position at the NAACP and my position on the CBS board are not connected and shouldn't be connected," Gordon said. "It in no way reflects any bias."

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