“Late Show with David Letterman” Contributes to Problematic Reporting on Amanda Simpson
January 6, 2010 by Anna Wipfler, GLAAD’s Transgender Advocacy Fellow
Yesterday we reported on President Obama’s appointment of Amanda Simpson as a senior technical advisor at the Commerce Department and some of the problematic news coverage about her becoming one of the first openly transgender presidential appointees.
Unfortunately, as coverage of her landmark appointment continues, so does the disrespectful treatment in the media. During last night’s “Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS, David Letterman announced Simpson’s appointment and reported that she is a transgender woman. He also showed a photo of her. The show’s announcer Alan Kalter then reacted to the news with disgust and mock horror, saying, “What? Amanda used to be a dude? My God!” He then hurried off stage to hearty laughter from the audience, apparently to go collect himself after the shock of this discovery.
Using this type of reaction to the discovery of a person’s transgender identity for comic effect appears to be a current trend in entertainment media. We’ve recently criticized similar instances of such defamation on FOX’s “The Cleveland Show.” Depicting people reacting in horror to transgender individuals is a dangerous stereotype for popular media to perpetuate because it contributes to the societal conception of transgender people as abnormal and deceptive, which all-too-often results in anti-transgender violence and/or discrimination when played out in reality.
We are reaching out to CBS “Late Show with David Letterman” with our concerns about this transphobic joke. Please send your concerns to CBS at: http://www.cbs.com/info/user_services/fb_global_form.php