AFTER SINGING the praises of oranges in commercials for five years, Anita Byrant was hoping to get a television show of her own someday. That was about to happen, too: A pilot show for a new series, to be sponsored by Singer Sewing Machines, was to have been filmed this week. But because she has been expressing her personal opinions on a new local Florida ordinance having to do with discrimination against homesexuals, Miss Bryant has now lost the series. She has been outspoken leader in a campaign to repeal a Dade County ordinance that bans discrimination against homosexuals in housing and employment.
As a result, the television show's productions firm advised her by telegram that "we sincerely regret that the extensive national publicity arising from the controversial political activites you have been engaged in Dade County prohibits us from utilizing your services." To this, Singer Co. Vice President Edward Treborrow has added an explanation that "we want this to be a pleasnt show. We'd like to have as little difficulty as possible in any direction."
Well, the degree of difficulty Singer may experience as a result of its action remains to be seen. It could well be that the company will lose more this way than if had kept Miss Bryant on the show. At least Singer was honest enough to cite political controversy as the source of its fear rather than to cover it up insome convoluted press release about "contract difficulties" or something. Here its' clear that organizations opposed to Miss Bryant's view were successful in pressuring a potential advertiser inowere successful in pressuring a potential advertiser into having her fired.
Regardless of whether one agrees with Miss Bryant's opinions on homosexuals, her dismissal - solely because of these political views rather than her ability to perform - should give pause to those same civil libertarians who would defend equal rights for homosexuals. So far, however, we've seen no evidence to support the entertainer's charge last week that "the blacklisting of Anita Bryant has begun." It takes more than one lost job to make that case.
We prefer to believe that the kind of blacklisting suffered by actors, entertainers and others in the 1950s is not due for a return engagement just yet. But because of unfound memories of that troubling period, one can understand why this latest sequence of events has attracted interest beyond the world of show business. Certainly there is some relationship between what people say and what they are paid to do - but it ought not be stretched to the point where every expression of individual opinion involves a risk of unemployment.