On Wednesday's AC360, CNN's Anderson Cooper tossed softball questions at openly-homosexual University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong, and labeled him "remarkably strong" in light of attacks he received online from a Michigan state official. Cooper also stated that Armstrong "hardly seems...[to have] a radical agenda," despite his support for gender-neutral housing.
The anchor, who led the 10 pm Eastern hour with the controversy between the college student and Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, has mentioned it on five out of seven of his programs since September 28. After playing clips from his interviews with Shirvell and his boss, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, Cooper continued with his pre-recorded interview with Armstrong. He began with a sympathetic question: "How are you holding up?" The CNN personality followed up by asking, "When you first heard that this blog had been set up- I mean, what did you think?"
Later in the segment, Cooper brought up the student body president's platform when he ran for office and brushed aside any concern about the most controversial issue:
COOPER: When I talked to this man, Mr. Shirvell, the assistant attorney general, he kept saying that you were a radical activist. So, I want to ask you about what your campaign was to get to be president of the student body at the University of Michigan. My understanding from my research was, you were talking about longer cafeteria hours. You were talking about gender-neutral housing, and I think maybe lower pay for- lower tuition costs- hardly seems like a radical agenda.
Gender-neutral housing, where colleges allow students, regardless of sex, to live together, is a radical concept forwarded most often by leftist groups, particularly those involved in homosexual advocacy. CNN.com's December 10, 2009 article on a proposal at Columbia University to begin such housing quoted from a student who acknowledged that "it's really a proposal for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender to have the opportunity to live with a roommate they feel comfortable with." The CNN article also quoted from Jeffrey Chang, co-founder of The National Student Genderblind Campaign, "a grassroots organization that helps students and college administrators develop gender-neutral housing policies."
Chang was also quoted in an article by NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Center as stating that his organization endorses "gender-neutral and LGBT-affirmative policies on college campuses" and that traditional student housing arrangements were "relics of an outdated past—a time when all students were assumed to be straight, transgender and queer identities were brushed aside, and friendships between men and women were less common."
During the last part of the interview, both Cooper and Armstrong put the controversy in the context of CNN's recent highlighting of bullying in schools as an issue, particularly in their spinning it to be a problem of conservatives persecuting homosexuals. The CNN anchor expressed his admiration for Armstrong as he concluded the segment: "Well, you're remarkably strong, and I appreciate you speaking."
The full transcript of Anderson Cooper's interview of Chris Armstrong from Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360:
COOPER: Two former attorney generals, including Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who used to be an attorney general, says Mike Cox has ample discretion to discipline or fire Andrew Shirvell. But neither Governor Granholm, Mr. Cox, or Andrew Shirvell would agree to come on the program tonight- only Chris Armstrong, and he came on, really, to talk not so much about himself, but about his concerns for all the young kids who have recently been committing suicide after being bullied. I spoke to Chris earlier tonight.
COOPER (from taped interview): How are you holding up?
CHRIS ARMSTRONG: I think- I have obviously been better. It's obviously been- like, a really big strain on- like, myself and my friends and family-
COOPER: Because this has been going on for months now.
ARMSTRONG: Yeah. Yeah, since March, and I think- like, what's been really great is that- like, the University of Michigan and- like, a lot of my friends and family have been- like, really supportive the entire way through.
COOPER: When you first heard that this blog had been set up- I mean, what did you think?
ARMSTRONG: You know, obviously, it was hurtful-
COOPER: How did you hear about it? Someone told you about it?
ARMSTRONG: Yeah. I had heard through friends, and some of my- some individuals knew Mr. Shirvell, and knew who he was. So, I had heard about it through them.
COOPER: Had you ever met him before?
ARMSTRONG: No. I had never spoken to him- never interacted with him, and still haven't really.
COOPER: How do you hope this resolves?
ARMSTRONG: I think this is really just an opportunity. Like, I think this chance to really speak out and say something- give a message to other kids who might be, [like] me- be facing something, obviously not as extreme, but- like, something you know, just- like being heckled in a classroom, I think that- like, honestly I think that that's really what I- really, the most positive thing I can make out of the situation.
COOPER: When I talked to this man, Mr. Shirvell, the assistant attorney general, he kept saying that you were a radical activist. So, I want to ask you about what your campaign was to get to be president of the student body at the University of Michigan. My understanding from my research was, you were talking about longer cafeteria hours. You were talking about gender-neutral housing, and I think maybe lower pay for- lower tuition costs.
ARMSTRONG: Yeah. Those were a lot of the issues that we talked about.
COOPER: Hardly seems like a radical agenda.
ARMSTRONG: (laughs) Yeah, I guess so. But I- honestly, like, a lot of these issues really were- you know, like, I didn't start them. They had a lot of support and a lot of momentum behind them, and- you know, they had been longstanding issues on campus, and I think I have been really happy to be able to serve as a voice for those issues.
COOPER: Right. Well, why are you speaking out now? I mean, you have been silent for a long time on this, and, obviously- you know, you have filed for an order of personal protection. That's still ongoing. Maybe you're contemplating a legal action- I'm not sure. But why speak out now?
ARMSTRONG: I think, as I kind of mentioned, it's really been a personal issue in a lot of ways. You know, I have dealt with it. Given what's happened in the past week, and given the suicides that have happened in the past- like, few weeks, it's been- I think it's hard not to say something, and-
COOPER: That's really what's motivating you to speak out now, the suicides we have all been witnessing and reporting on?
ARMSTRONG: Right- yeah, and I think- like, I- honestly, I didn't really ask to be put in this position in a lot of ways, and I didn't really-
COOPER: In just about all ways, you didn't ask to be put in this position.
ARMSTRONG: (laughs) Yeah. But, you know, I felt that- like, seeing these kids- you know, like, feel they need to take their life- it's important to understand that things can get better, and it's important to know that you can reach out in your community. You can reach out to friends, and they can support you.
COOPER: What's happened to you has resonated- I mean, around the country. People have been following the story for a long time, but particularly, the last couple of weeks, and I have had people come up to me on the street, and- you know, the fact that it can happen not just to kids who are in high school, but also to a young person in college, or even to an adult, or by an adult- I think, sort of stunned a lot of people. Did it surprise you that you're out of high school, and yet, you're suddenly in a position where- you know, you're being bullied in a completely unusual way by someone in a position of power?
ARMSTRONG: I think- yeah, I mean, I think it was certainly surprising, and I honestly can't speak for a lot of the things that were said, because- you know, they weren't my words, and I- again, like, I understand that- like, the things said about me are not my issues. Like, they're not things that sort of-
COOPER: You think it says more about the person doing it?
ARMSTRONG: Yeah. I think it's sort of the issue of bullying at large- like, the things being said by- about someone usually says more about the person who's saying them, rather than themselves.
COOPER: Well, you're remarkably strong, and I appreciate you speaking.
ARMSTRONG: Thank you.