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Controversy surrounds Adam Lambert's canceled appearances

A conservative group says his AMA performance was 'indecent and inappropriate.'

December 04, 2009|By Maria Elena Fernandez
  • CONTROVERSY: Adam Lambert, left, kissed a male performer at AMAs.
CONTROVERSY: Adam Lambert, left, kissed a male performer at AMAs.

The decision by ABC to cancel Adam Lambert's upcoming appearance on the late night show "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and to remove him from the potential roster of New Year's Rockin' Eve performers continued to create controversy Thursday, as a conservative Christian group defended its decision to protest Lambert's sexually suggestive performance last month at the American Music Awards.

The Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit public interest law firm closely tied to the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Virginia and provides legal assistance in defense of what it calls "Christian religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family," filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission over Lambert's controversial performance at the AMAs. In it, the group called on the FCC to fine ABC for "airing such an outrageously lewd and filthy performance during a show and time period that is targeted for family audiences."

Kimmel's show airs well after the 10 p.m. cutoff for FCC regulation of indecent material. But Matt Barber, Liberty Counsel's director of cultural affairs, noted that Lambert's AMA performance aired at 9:55 p.m. Central Standard Time and may have been seen by children and teenagers.

"I would say this is inappropriate period," Barber said of Lambert's performance. "This is not HBO or some of these cable networks where that type of indecency and filth has come to be expected. This is television where people just flipping through channels could have stumbled onto that -- people unaware of what's coming down the pike in terms of the indecency being performed."

Executives at ABC, which had earlier canceled Lambert's scheduled appearance on "Good Morning America," have declined to discuss the reasons behind the cancellations. Lambert, the popular and openly gay "American Idol" runner-up, has said on his Twitter site that the network is responding to "FCC heat."

Lambert also tweeted Wednesday that he was disinvited from performing on ABC's "New Year's Rockin' Eve." Although the roster hasn't been officially closed or announced, ABC and Dick Clark Productions, which produces the show as well as the AMAs, had discussions with the artist about performing on it. Lambert will definitely not appear on the show, sources said. He will still appear on ABC's Barbara Walters' "The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009" at 10 p.m. Wednesday, presumably because there is no performance involved.

On Nov. 24, Liberty Counsel filed a complaint with the FCC against ABC contending that Lambert's American Music Awards performance two days earlier was "obscene" and "indecent." Although ABC did receive about 1,500 complaints from viewers about Lambert's sexually suggestive performance, which featured the singer kissing another man, Lambert fans have in turn complained about ABC's decision to cancel "GMA" and now Kimmel.

Many of Lambert's supporters, including the Advocate, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton and AfterElton.com, believe he is being targeted because he is a gay male. They note that Janet Jackson, who opened the AMAs, grabbed the crotch of a male dancer but that was not subjected to the same kind of scrutiny.

In an interview Thursday with the Times, Barber said he was not aware of Jackson's performance but the "over-the-top homoeroticism that was featured in [Lambert's] performance was simply indecent and inappropriate for the airwaves."

"The issue is not so much about homosexuality, although I believe the preponderance of Americans find public hyper-sexualized acts of homosexuality particularly off-putting," Barber said. "But the issue was more of indecency and what is decency? And frankly the issue is one of law. We believe this performance met the threshold for violation of federal law and violation of FCC regulations. And the Supreme Court has held time and again that there's not a First Amendment right to engage in public indecency as evidenced by the outcry and complaints that poured into ABC."

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a statement on Thursday saying that, after discussions with ABC executives, the organization was convinced there were no homophobic motives behind the cancellation of Lambert's appearances.

"It would appear that the kiss between Adam Lambert and his keyboardist did not factor into ABC's decision," said Jarrett Barrios, president of GLAAD. "ABC has a history of positive gay and transgender inclusion that includes featuring kisses between gay and lesbian couples on-air."

The decision to cancel the "Kimmel" appearance was the network's -- and not the show's, sources said. ABC executives have issued only a short statement regarding that: "We decided not to move forward with the booking at this time."

Lambert's publicist on Thursday declined a request for an interview with the artist but said, "We respect what [ABC] says."

During an interview on "The Early Show" on CBS, Lambert admitted the adrenaline got the best of him on stage and the acts in question were not featured in his rehearsals, which angered ABC executives.

maria elena fernandez@latimes.com

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