CNN's Soledad O'Brien Sympathizes With Lesbian Teen's Plight

June 15th, 2010 3:57 PM

On Monday's Campbell Brown program, CNN's Soledad O'Brien presented a one-sided report about a lesbian teenager in Mississippi whose senior portrait was left out of her school's yearbook because she chose to have it taken in a tux, defying the school's rules. O'Brien commiserated with the teen, asking her at one point, "I want people to understand because other people will say- oh, for God's sake, it's just a picture. So explain to us, what does it feel like to not be where you're supposed to be?"

Anchor John Roberts introduced the special correspondent's near the end of the 8 pm Eastern hour by trying to make a tenuous connection between the report and the continuing major news of the Gulf oil leak: "All eyes are on Gulfport, Mississippi this morning as the President arrived for the first leg of his three-state tour, but about 150 miles north of the Gulf, in a small town called Wesson, the big news this season was all about the high school yearbook. It was here that a teenager's senior picture triggered an unexpected backlash, and sparked outrage throughout the state."

O'Brien sympathized with Ceara Sturgis, the teen from Wesson, Mississippi, from the start of her report: "For 18-year-old senior Ceara Sturgis, her high school yearbook is more than a collection of memories. It's about her struggle to be who she is in tiny Wesson, Mississippi, population about 2,000." After asking the lesbian to describe herself ("18 years old and I'm gay. I don't like people to push me around, especially when I have the right, and I don't give up."), the correspondent continued that "what she didn't give up on was her fight to get this picture in her yearbook, a picture she took wearing a tuxedo instead of the traditional dress, called a drape."

Later, O'Brien got the closest to providing the other side when she provided quotes from the Wesson high school principal and the district office administrator. But she also let Sturgis and her mother cast the principal in a negative light:

O'BRIEN: Principal Ronald Greer refused to print the picture of Ceara in a tux in the yearbook. Neither the principal nor the school's superintendent would talk with us. After repeated calls, the district office administrator told us- quote, 'We are done.' Back in October, the principal told the Jackson TV station, he wasn't able to comment- quote, 'on that particular situation.' Ceara and her mom believe the main reason the photo was vetoed- Principal Greer's attitude towards homosexuality.

The CNN special correspondent got the most sympathetic towards toward the Mississippi teen near the end of her report:

O'BRIEN: Shortly after prom, Ceara got her copy of the yearbook. Her portrait wasn't in it.

O’BRIEN (on-camera): Where would you be?

STURGIS: Between there and there.

O'BRIEN: So you should be like right here.

STURGIS: Yeah. I figured that if we kept fighting for a little bit, they would just end up changing their mind because I didn't think it was a big deal.

O'BRIEN: What did it feel like to not be there?

STURGIS: It made me sad.

O'BRIEN: Well, tell me.

STURGIS: It made me feel bad.

O'BRIEN: I'm not trying to make you feel bad. But I want people to understand because other people will say- oh, for God's sake, it's just a picture. So explain to us, what does it feel like to not be where you're supposed to be?

STURGIS: (crying) It's not fair.

O'BRIEN: Why is it not fair?

STURGIS: I don't know- okay, let's say we put it in the yearbook, would anyone hurt like I hurt since I'm not in the yearbook? It wouldn't hurt anyone.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): She's thinking about suing. It won't put her picture in Wesson's 2010 yearbook, but she says it may help other gay kids in Mississippi.

STURGIS: All right, now just do a serious face.

O'BRIEN: And at this point, that's what Ceara's thinking about. Reporting, in America, Soledad O'Brien, CNN, Wesson, Mississippi.

Roberts hinted that O'Brien had another report on a homosexual teen in the works after her report finished: "And later this week, Ceara's story inspires another Mississippi teen to stand up and speak out. We'll have her story." The anchor also promoted the correspondent's upcoming one-sided special report 'Gary and Tony Have a Baby,' which she recently previewed for homosexual activist group GLAAD.

CNN found it fitting to spend an entire four-minute-plus report to this lesbian teen's plight, but when pro-life activist James Pouillon was murdered in September 2009, the network devoted only one anchor brief to the story: "A shooting spree near Flint, Michigan, leaves two dead. A local anti- abortion activist was killed in a drive by shooting this morning while protesting in front of Owosso High School. The gunman then drove to a local business where he shot and killed the owner. Police arrested a 33-year-old suspect who they say planned to kill a third man."