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Laura Schlessinger

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Laura Schlessinger, Ph.D. (born January 16, 1947) is a popular and controversial American radio talk-show host, hosting the Dr. Laura call-in show. It runs 3 hours a day on weekdays.

Schlessinger had characterized her show as a "moral health program" rather than as an "advice program". Her responses to callers usually display a trademark frankness that some people find harsh and others find refreshing. She gets to the core of a caller's issue quickly rather than let them talk for a long time. Her advice has been widely sought and the show is tied for third highest-rated talk radio show in the United States. At its peak, it was the second highest-rated radio show after Rush Limbaugh.

Schlessinger is a outspoken critic of sex outside of marriage, working moms, marrying quickly or at a young age, abortion, easy or no-fault divorce, and gay rights. Her radio program often features short editorial monologues on these and other social and political topics. A short-lived Dr. Laura television show was not successful and was quickly cancelled.

She has also authored numerous self-help books, including the best-selling Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives, and several religious books. Her most recent book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands has been her most successful.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Moral opinions
3 Criticism and controversies
4 Publications
5 Foundation
6 External links

History

Born in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York to Monroe (Monty) Schlessinger and Yolanda Ceccovini Schessinger, Laura Catherine Schlessinger grew up first in Brooklyn, then in Long Island, New York. She has described her childhood as unpleasant, due to extended family rejection of her mixed-marriage parents (Monty was Jewish but an unbeliever, while Yolanda was an Italian Catholic war-bride) and due to what she has described as an unloving environment. She was an only child for eleven years until the birth of her sister, Cindy. An excellent student, Schlessinger received a bachelor degree from SUNY Stony Brook and a Ph.D. in Physiology from Columbia University. A brief marriage in her early twenties ended in divorce, and she moved to Los Angeles where her parents had resettled.

She received her certification in Marriage, Family and Child Counselling from University of Southern California (USC) and taught at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), University of California, Irvine, USC, and Pepperdine University. While working at USC, she met Dr. Lewis G. Bishop, who was married with dependent children. According to the subsequent divorce filings, they began an affair. Schlessinger's contract with USC was not renewed, and Bishop chose to leave his tenured job at the same time. They married eight years later, in early 1985, and he became her business manager. After the reversal of a tubal ligation, and later suffering a tubal pregnancy, Schlessinger bore their only child Deryk in November, 1985 when she was 38.

Schlessinger's first radio engagement was as a guest on the Bill Ballance show in 1974. She did her own shows on a series of small radio stations before landing her current show at KFI in Los Angeles. The Dr. Laura Show was nationally syndicated in 1994. She sold ownership of the show to Jacor Communications, Inc for $71 million, and at its peak, The Doctor Laura Show was heard on 471 radio stations. Jacor was then sold to Clear Channel Communications. KFI remains her flagship station but Schlessinger now broadcasts from her new home in Santa Barbara.

Schlessinger converted to Judaism in 1996, and she and her son Deryk joined the Conservative branch (it is unclear if her husband Lewis ever converted to Conservative Judaism). Then in 1998 the entire family converted to Orthodox Judaism under Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka of Ottawa. Schlessinger often discusses religion on the show, giving examples from Judaism. She would often clarify ethical and moral issues with her local Orthodox Rabbi, Moshe D. Bryski, before mentioning them on air. She was embraced by the politically conservative segment of Orthodox Judaism after bringing more awareness of Orthodoxy to her radio show. Schlessinger received a National Heritage award from the National Council of Young Israel in early 2001.

She has won awards from some media and many conservative organizations, including the National Religious Broadcasters' Chairman's Award. She also lectures on the national conservative circuit, and was the commencement speaker at Hillsdale College in June 2003. Her son matriculated there the following fall.

In July 2003, Schlessinger announced on her show that she was no longer an Orthodox Jew. This was a shock to both fans and detractors, given the effort she had put into identifying as an Orthodox Jew both on-air and off. In a series of monologues over the next month, she explained that she did not feel a connection with God and felt frustrated by the effort she had put into following the religion. She also mentioned envying the relationship with God described by her Christian fans. Her religious approach on the show lessened substantially after this announcement.

As of November 2003, her show is syndicated to 275 stations, down from a peak of 470. Call volume has also declined, as can be observed by the number of callers invited to call back. At the show's peak, with 60,000 attempted calls, callers were told they only could appear once.

Moral opinions

Some of her best-known opinions include:

Since the publication of her latest book, The Care and Feeding of Husbands, Schlessinger has advocated wives putting husbands, rather than children, first. This is a reversal of years of advice encouraging callers to always put their childrens' immediate needs first, no matter how inconvenient.

Criticism and controversies

Name of show and qualifications

Schlessinger's Ph.D. is in physiology, not psychology, and her critics have characterized the show name (Dr. Laura) as deceptive. In her defense, she mentions that her degree is in physiology and that she is a licensed marriage therapist on her web site and during her show. Critics contend that she rarely mentions these facts on her show. While she claims that she does not do "therapy" and often refers people to seek therapy outside the context of her show, she has received additional criticism because her California Marriage Family and Child Counseling (MFCC) license has been inactive for several years. Further criticism arises because she often refers to herself as "a licensed therapist."

Supporters note that "The Dr. Laura Show" is a catchy and informative show name, complete with an 800 number to match (1-800-DRLAURA).

There is a minor criticism over her describing her MFCC studies, a Masters Degree, as "post-doctoral studies." These studies indeed occurred after her Doctorate, but in an unrelated field. Academics typically use the term "post-doctoral" to refer to additional work in the same field.

Relations with the Media

Schlessinger has had several notable incidents with journalists. The most memorable was with Dallas Morning News' Maryln Schwartz, who reported about Schlessinger's actions in Dallas while giving a speech to a Jewish womens' group. Schlessinger reacted angrily on-air and made a series of negative comments about reporters. When Schwartz wrote about Schlessinger's behavior, Schlessinger became even more irate. Later, Schlessinger cooperated with Leslie Bennetts and then erupted on air over how Bennetts portrayed her in the Vanity Fair article. An unauthorized and unflattering biography by Vickie Bane followed, in 1999, without any cooperation from Schlessinger. After these experiences, Schlessinger was reluctant to do interviews, with the exception of Larry King, where she has been a frequent guest.

Nude pictures

In 1998, naked pictures of her were posted on the Internet by ex-lover Bill Ballance, who gave Schlessinger her start in the radio business in 1974. At first she denied that she was the woman in the photographs, but two weeks later she sued for copyright infringement. Schlessinger's suit was ultimately dropped after she failed to get an injunction to stop displaying the photos.

This issue generated some controversy. Supporters noted that the pictures were taken 20 years ago and that Schlessinger was clearly a different and wiser person now. Detractors observed that Schlessinger was dishonest about the pictures until she had no choice but to admit that she was the subject.

Soon after this incident, Schlessinger added the Internet to her list of improper behaviors by callers.

View of homosexuality

Schlessinger wrote,

"Most Christians oppose homosexuality because they believe Scripture defines it as sin. They are not motivated by hate; quite the contrary."

Schlessinger is frequently criticized in the gay community for her view of homosexuality as a "biological error" and for her opposition to adoption by gay parents. On December 8, 1998 she stated:

I'm sorry — hear it one more time, perfectly clearly: If you're gay or a lesbian, it's a biological error that inhibits you from relating normally to the opposite sex. The fact that you are intelligent, creative and valuable is all true. The error is in your inability to relate sexually intimately, in a loving way to a member of the opposite sex — it is a biological error.

In 2000, Schlessinger signed a deal with Paramount Television to do a Dr. Laura television program. Thousands of critics, particularly led by gay activist groups such as the Stop Dr. Laura web site, threatened to boycott sponsors in advance of the show. In November 2000, most stations moved the show to a less desirable time slot or replaced it entirely after the show started with low ratings, which then declined. There was also little sponsor interest in the show during its first nine weeks. The show was cancelled in March 2001 due to poor ratings. [1]

On, May 10, 2000, The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) ruled that

''her consistent characterization (in episodes reviewed) of the sexual behavior of gays and lesbian as "abnormal", "aberrant", "deviant", "disordered", "dysfunctional", "an error" or the like constituted abusively discriminatory of those persons on the basis of their sexual orientation. As a result, Schlessinger's comments were determined to be in violation of the human rights provision of the CAB Code of Ethics.
'' The CBSC found similar fault with her generalized statements that paedophilia is more prevalent among members of the gay community. However, the CBSC also ruled that,
in a number of other areas complained of, notably the issues relating to the gay agenda, gay culture, fatherless homes and the issues surrounding the murder of Matthew Shepard, Schlessinger's comments could not reasonably be interpreted on these various episodes as being in violation of either Clause 2 or 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics. [1]

Over the next year, most Canadian stations carrying the show dropped it.

In October 2000, Schlessinger paid for a full-page ad in the Gay Hollywood issue of Variety, as a Yom Kippur apology for previous negative remarks.

Negative reactions to views

Schlessinger's opinions given to live callers sometimes result in criticism. Part of Schlessinger's schtick is her "no-nonsense" attitude. On her show, her manner towards callers is serious and straight to the point, but has been criticized by some as "mean," "shrill," "bitter" or worse.

In May 2001, in one well-publicized example, Schlessinger advised a caller not to let a boy with Tourette's Syndrome attend a wedding, angering many with the syndrome or who cared for TS children. Schlessinger defended her advice and referred to a 20-year-old textbook which recommended medication. The National Tourette Syndrome Association (TSA) severely criticized her views and TSA members deluged her show's parent company, Premiere Radio Networks, with calls and faxes. Within a week Schlessinger read an on-air apology.

Schlessinger has also criticized private individuals on her radio show, which has led to controversy. On one occasion she attacked, by name, an 8th grade girl who never contacted Schlessinger, because she disagreed with the girl's award-winning essay. On another show, Schlessinger encouraged her listeners to call a local beachwear store because of an argument she had with the assistant manager. The store owner appeared on the Howard Stern radio show to tell his side, and this led to Schlessinger filing a lawsuit (which she lost), and being countersued (which she also lost).

Perceived hypocrisy

The fact that Schlessinger is herself divorced has often led to allegations that she does not pratice the same high moral standards she preaches. The nude photo controversy certainly did not help this reputation.

In December 2002, Schlessinger's mother Yolanda was found dead in her condominium, her corpse having been there for months. The lurid story stayed in the headlines for some time. Controversy arose because of Schlessinger's previous advice to callers telling them to "honor thy father and mother" was viewed by some as contrasting with her not knowing her own mother had died months ago. Some felt Schlessinger handled the situation poorly, making statements that disrespected her mother after her death. Supporters noted that Schlessinger had explained her not speaking to her mother was her mother's choice, not Schlessinger's.

Schlessinger has often observed that a hypocrite says "Do what I say, not what I do" rather than "Do what I say, not what I did." Critics then found that despite her claims to be an Orthodox Jew, she was entering sailboat races on Saturdays, the Jewish sabbath. When this information was shared on Usenet, Schlessinger announced she was leaving Orthodoxy three months later.

Inappropriate Publicity of Family Life

Schlessinger has often discussed her son on the radio show. When he was younger he appeared on the show a few times, and also did radio ads for Hooked on Phonics. Some have questioned her judgment in including cute stories about him on the show and in her books. While some of the stories are of the harmless "Awwww" variety, others could have caused embarrassment for her son. And while she has shared with her listeners that she felt her family was threatened and they needed bodyguards, she repeatedly told her audience where he was going to college (Hillsdale). She broadcast her show from Hillsdale during Parents Weekend in October, 2003 and called attention to her location several times.

Deryk turned 18 in November, 2003. Soon after Thanksgiving, Schlessinger stopped calling herself "my kid's mom," which had been her tagline for many years. She then described him as "out of the house and independent"; then, no more mention of her son at all. In January, her book on caring for husbands was released, and Schlessinger changed the tone of her advice. Following this, there was speculation that her son had dropped out of college when the school was no longer mentioned, and the Spring Parents Weekend passed without any comment. In April 2004, reports circulated that her son had indeed dropped out of college, and was going to opening a Turkish hookah bar in Hillsdale. Although this news was at first dismissed as an April Fool's joke, it was later confirmed by friends of Deryk Schlessinger.

Laura Schlessinger's shift of focus from children to husbands ties in with another common criticism of her work: that her advice is based on her own life, regardless of the caller's needs. When her son was a younger teen, Schlessinger criticized young teen girls who called up boys. When he was an older teen, she argued with callers who described their college-bound children as high achievers, suggesting perhaps she was uneasy about her son's school performance.

Supporters note that her son is old enough to demand his privacy and Schlessinger is now giving him the respect an adult deserves.

Rind et al.

Schlessinger was a harsh critic of the Rind et al meta-analysis of child sexual abuse. Months later the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), whom American Psychological Association under political pressure had asked for an independent review of the article, said:

Publications

Schlessinger has published a number of books. Several follow the mold of her successful Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives, with similarly named books giving advice for men, couples, and parents, others are more religious or moral in orientation. The later advice books emphasize religion more than the earlier works, until her announced departure from Orthodox Judaism in July, 2003.

Her most recent book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, has done extremely well. Many calls to the radio show discuss the new book. It has many fans as well as detractors. This latest work is a departure from her previous advice to always put children first, and encourages wives to keep their husbands happy by providing sex and meals cheerfully at all times. Its thesis is that wives have the power to change their husbands by seeing to these needs, and then their husbands will do anything they wish. Most critical reviews have been unimpressed, but sales are impressive.

Advice Books

Religious Books Children's Books, with Martha Lewis Lambert, illustrated by Dan McFeely For several years, Schlessinger published a full-color 16 page monthly magazine, The Dr. Laura Perspective, but it has ceased publication.

She wrote a syndicated weekly column, carried in many newspapers as well as Jewish World Review, where archives are still available. She currently writes a monthly column for World Net Daily.

Foundation

Schlessinger created 'The Dr. Laura Foundation' which helps abused and neglected children. Schlessinger asks her on-air audience to donate items for "My Stuff" bags which go to children in need (often children who must leave their home with no possessions). A review of the foundations 1099's (in alt.radio.talk.dr-laura) shows Schlessinger's own donations to the foundation are her name and the proceeds from the necklaces she makes and then auctions. All other donations comes from other people or groups, usually in the form of donated items for the bags. Per the foundation's reports, money not used for operations is directed toward pro-life organizations such as crisis pregnancy centers.

External links