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HBO Says They’re Not To Blame For Robinson’s Omission In Inaugural Concert Special

Jim Burroway

January 19th, 2009

Sunday afternoon, HBO broadcast the “We Are One” Inaugural Celebration live from the Lincoln Memorial. Openly gay bishop Gene Robinson delivered the invocation before the concert, but his prayer was omitted from HBO’s free nationwide broadcast. AfterElton contacted HBO Sunday night to ask about Rev. Robinson’s exclusion:

HBO said via email, “The producer of the concert has said that the Presidential Inaugural Committee made the decision to keep the invocation as part of the pre-show.”

Uncertain as to whether or not that meant that HBO was contractually prevented from airing the pre-show, we followed up, but none of the spokespeople available Sunday night could answer that question with absolute certainty. However, it does seem that the network’s position is that they had nothing to do with the decision. We have also contacted a spokesperson from the Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC) for their explanation and will post what we learn either from PIC or HBO.

Rev. Robinson’s exclusion was deeply disappointing to millions of LGBT Americans. When Obama’s Inauguration Committee announced that Rev. Robinson would give the invocation for the Inaugural Concert, it was seen as an olive branch to the LGBT community which had been angered over Rick Warren’s selection to lead the invocation during the inauguration itself. The announcement concerning Rick Warren came just days after he compared gay relationships to incest, child rape and polygamy.

Obama’s team needs to come clean on this one. They need to admit either that they didn’t intend for Rev. Robinson to be seen on nationwide television, or that someone severely screwed up. This olive branch came with too many thorns to be ignored and swept under the rug.

The official announcement concerning the concert lineup which included mention of Rev. Robinson’s invocation made no distinction between “pre-show” and the lineup which would be broadcast nationwide. In fact, the announcement instead brags that the event would be “kicking off the most open and accessible Inauguration in history” — right after the HBO programming announcement. LGBT Americans who tuned in to watch the historic moment didn’t learn that Rev. Robinson had already given his invicocation until long after the broadcast had begin. Rev. Robinson’s invocation came at about ten minutes before the start of the broadcast.

Even many of those in attendance missed Robinson’s prayer. As he began to speak, sound was cut off to many of the speakers, making him inaudible to most of the estimated 500,000 people who gathered at Mall.

A video of Rev. Robinson’s invocation has made it onto YouTube. While we’re grateful that someone in the crowd with a videocam did an excellent job in capturing this moment, we suspect that Warren’s YouTube will come with somewhat better production values.

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January 19th, 2009 | LINK

WHY is this question not being raised by the Nation’s leading media outlets – CNN, MSNBC, etc.?

Mad John
January 19th, 2009 | LINK

The message is looking pretty clear before BHO even takes off. Revise your expectations downward, folks. You’ve been played for chumps again.

January 19th, 2009 | LINK

NPR had Robinson discussing this today.

Timothy Kincaid
January 19th, 2009 | LINK

It sounds like the Obamas, while present, were not on the dias for the prayer. Considering the amount of planning behind such events, it’s impossible that this was accidental. Someone made the decision that they did not want the President and Robinson to be in the same camera shot.

I find this decision to display an astonishing lack of respect and bordering on a deliberate slight. And to demonstrate a degree of stupidity or ignorance of the gay community that is hard to understand.

Surely they had to know that putting Robinson on before the cameras were rolling and before the President was seated would not go unnoticed by gay folk. It would have been better that he not be invited.

January 19th, 2009 | LINK

I’m giving Obama 1.5 more chances: If he doesn’t do something substantial for the gay community in the first 100 days of office (extensible to the first 365 days, hence the 0.5 chance), I’m not voting for him again.

JP in California
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

That’s not the only snub HBO gave: HBO also failed to identify the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC as singing “America” with Josh Groban & Heather Headley. Nothing on the screen during the performance, and no mention in the closing credits. Oh, and they were yanked at the last minute from the closing festivities … to make more room on the stage for the Naval Academy Glee Club members (who were acknowledged appropriately by HBO.)

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