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Interview With Peter Sprigg, Nancy Skinner

Aired June 10, 2003 - 20:43   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now, if glancing at the sexy pictures on the covers of "Cosmo" "Glamour " helps some of you pass some time at Wal-Mart's checkout lines, you will soon be out of luck. After recently pulling some men's magazines from its shelves, the discount mega-chain now plans to put cover-up binders on some of the women's magazines at checkouts. We want to talk about this with the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg in Washington. He took part in the drive to get the men's magazines removed. And WLS radio talk show host Nancy Skinner -- she joins us from Boston. Appreciate both of you joining us.
Peter, I want to start off with you. I wanted to show the audience some of these magazines that we're talking about, so they know the context we're talking about. First one, I believe, is "Redbook." They had a cover that said, "Three Amazing Sex Moves." "Marie Claire" had one says, "Sex and Men Survey." "Glamour" magazine, "Great Summer Hair, Skin and Body." What is the problem with these magazines being on the shelves at a checkout line?

PETER SPRIGG, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, the problem is that they are right in the face of people who don't want to be exposed to that kind of material. And this is a particular concern for the parents of young children, who don't want to be put in the position of having to have their children read those headlines and having to explain to them what they mean, and so forth. And so we really think Wal-Mart has taken a very wise and measured step here. They're -- we didn't ask them to stop the sale of these magazines but just to shield the part that's most offensive to some of their families that shop there.

COOPER: All right. Let me bring in Nancy Skinner. Nancy, it sounds reasonable. Families shouldn't be subjected to this kind of thing, according to Peter. Your thoughts?

NANCY SKINNER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Sounds reasonable, but there's a slippery slope. We banned "XM" and the other magazine, "Maxim" and "FM" or whatever it is. Obviously, I don't read those magazines. I'm more of an "Economist" reader myself. But look at -- now we're going after fashion magazines. What happens when the No. 1 retailer, a company as large as Wal-Mart, says, You know what? Because of pressure from these groups, we're not going to sell contraceptives. We don't want to -- you know, We don't believe in it, and we're pressured by our consumers and these groups not to -- we don't sell contraceptives. I mean, they are the largest retailer, and they have closed down mom-and-pop shops all over. So a lot of people have no other choice. This is where they go, and this is where they'll buy their retail goods. And so it's scary.

COOPER: Peter, Nancy brings up the lack of competition that some of these chains have in certain areas. They basically have a monopoly on shopping. Do you have any concern about this going too far, about this being a slippery slope?

SPRIGG: Well, I would submit that one of the reasons why Wal- Mart has been so successful as a retailer is that, for the most part, they have demonstrated themselves to be responsive to these kind of family concerns in terms of the materials that they market. This has been cited sometimes with respect to the videos and the music CDs, and so forth, that they sell, as well. I think they're demonstrating that being pro-family, selling wholesome entertainment and being responsive to the concerns of their mainstream shoppers is good business. We hope that other stores and corporations will follow their lead.

SKINNER: Anderson, I have to follow up to that statement that Wal-Mart is pro-family or they're being responsive to families. If Wal-Mart, and if your organization and the rest of the Traditional Values Coalition and American decency organization and family Organizations wanted to be pro-family, Wal-Mart would not be an anti- union shop. They go to great lengths to do illegal union-busting activities.

COOPER: All right, well, let's focus on the magazines.

SKINNER: And for them not -- well, no, but the point -- no, there's a point here. You're talking about this being a family organization. It's more important that they provide a living wage for their workers and health care than the kids see a swimsuit issue. And Wal-Mart is not a pro-family company when they bust unions like this.

COOPER: Peter, I want to read to you a statement released by the Hearst Publications, publisher of "Redbook," "Marie Claire," "Cosmopolitan." They said, quote, "Millions of people who enjoy their favorite magazines should not be deprived of their ability to purchase them with full knowledge of their content."

SPRIGG: Well...

COOPER: Any validity to that, in your opinion?

SPRIGG: Well, they can have full knowledge of their content. All that's going to happen is that these magazines will be behind an opaque shield that will prevent unwilling customers from seeing what's in them. Anybody who wants to see what's in them can just reach in and pull it out and take a look at it. It really places very little limitation on the ability of the store to sell the magazines or the ability of customers who want them to find out what's in them and to purchase them. It's protecting...

SKINNER: But your boycott letter... SPRIGG: ... the unwilling.

SKINNER: But your boycott letter actually says you wish they wouldn't sell them at all. We're not asking you -- in the letter, it says, online, We're not asking you not to sell these magazines, but we think that should be your responsible position. So what's next?

COOPER: We're going to leave it there. That's the question. We'll just leave it on that. Peter Sprigg, appreciate you joining us. Nancy Skinner, as well.

Now, we should also point out that we received a statement from Wal-Mart. It says as follows: Quote, "In our efforts to strike a balance for our customers who want to purchase magazines and our customers who are uncomfortable seeing specific magazine covers at the checkout lanes, we have implemented special magazine covers at our checkout displays." You can check those out for yourself at Wal-Mart.


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