National Geographic Rejects Gay Scout’s Petition Request

National Geographic rebuffed Will Oliver’s request to add a disclaimer about Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members to the start of its new show “Are You Tough Enough To Be A Scout?” Instead, they offered him space to write a blog post on the show’s website. posted on

Chris Geidner

Will Oliver

WASHINGTON — Will Oliver, an out gay Eagle Scout, was supposed to be taking a biology quiz Monday morning at Northwestern University, where he’s a sophomore. But, he wasn’t there.

Instead, he spent the morning in Washington, D.C., delivering his petitions to National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., asking the company to add a disclaimer to the beginning of its new television show — Are You Tough Enough To Be A Scout? — that acknowledges the Boy Scouts’ policy banning gay scouts.

Delivering more than 120,000 signatures from a petition Oliver had posted at change.org, he then met with a company spokesman to discuss the request in advance of Monday night’s 8 p.m. premiere of the show.

Speaking with BuzzFeed after the meeting, Oliver said, “Disappointingly, it seems like they’re not going to be able to issue a disclaimer, but they’ve offered to let me write a blog post on the TV channel’s website before the show is aired tonight.”

As to whether the station will promote the blog post on social media or in any other ways, Oliver said. “They said they might, depending on the content of the post. That’s still not clear.”

The response was not enough, he said, saying, “I’m not satisfied. But it’s clear, at least with the people in the room, that there’s a ton of support.”

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has supported Oliver’s petition request and communications vice president Rich Ferraro attended Monday’s meeting.

“The blog post is a nice gesture, but they’ve fallen short of doing the right thing, and so, tonight, GLAAD will be watching to let their advertisers know that they have refused to speak out directly against this policy and that they’re one of the few organizations that has not spoken out against it,” Ferraro told BuzzFeed. “They clearly support Will and everything that he has to say, so much so that they’re going to put him on their home page. Yet, they are scared, as a company, to speak out against the policy.”

The National Geographic television channel did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

UPDATE: National Geographic posted Oliver’s blog post, with the notice that “it is against our network’s policy to air any disclaimer other than those warning that “Viewer Discretion is Advised” due to content (and we have denied similar, less public requests in the past).”

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