The executive director of the Madison Rivergate Chamber of Commerce in Tennessee resigned from her position after ABC’s decision to cancel Tim Allen’s sitcom “Last Man Standing” inspired her to post a [since-deleted] homophobic rant to her Facebook page. Here’s five things you need to know about Debbie Odom Massey:
1. She Apparently Believes “Discrimination” Means “Having One’s Favorite Show Cancelled”
As The Tennessean first reported, Massey’s downfall started last Thursday when, apparently enraged by the news that ABC would not renew the sitcom “Last Man Standing,” she posted a Facebook rant complaining about “discrimination” and “same sex making out.” (All punctuation errors, ellipses and misspellings lifted form the original.)
I can’t believe that I am supposed to be ok with shows like Grays Anatomy or Nashville or any other show that promotes LGBT blah blah blah ..,WHATEVER! Cramming same sex making out into our Homes! But I can’t watch MY FAVORITE show! Last Man Standing! Talk about discrimination!! ABC needs to listen to the majority — not the 2% – Afraid of lawsuit? Maybe we should scream, riot, wine and create law suits against EVERYBODY that doesn’t make us feel good, then we can get our way!! “Last Man Standing” also offered the counter viewpoint…it’s not like you didn’t hear the other side. It is obvious they wish to only present their views and only wish to INDOCTRINATE people. We live in a country of FREE speech, if we believe it we should practice it and not support those who suppress it!
Massey’s post also linked to a Breitbart article headlined “ABC Cancels Conservative Tim Allen Sitcom ‘Last Man Standing’ Despite Strong Ratings,” which suggested that perhaps ABC cancelled the show due to disagreement with Allen’s conservative political leanings.
2. The Madison Rivergate Chamber of Commerce Plans to Start Diversity Training
In a May 15 statement posted to the Madison Rivergate Chamber website, chairman Ron Smith said Massey resigned over comments posted to her Facebook page the previous week, but also added “I have known Debbie for more than 5 years and she is one of the hardest working, most dedicated individuals I have known. I respect Debbie’s wish to resign her position and allow the Madison Rivergate Chamber to move forward from this unfortunate event. I know that I, along with my fellow board members want to continue the mission of the chamber and be a welcoming institution, open to and willing to assist all persons and businesses in our community.”
That statement goes on to say that the chamber is immediately looking for a new president, and “Board members will also begin diversity training. Additionally, a new social media policy is scheduled to be reviewed by the Board of Directors at the next meeting.”
As of May 16, however, the Chamber of Commerce had not yet removed Massey’s photo and biographical information from its website; under “membership” it says “Debbie is the Executive Director of the Madison Rivergate Area Chamber of Commerce. Her role ranges from overseeing marketing efforts, administrative needs, special projects, and new member development.”
According to The Tennessean, in addition to implementing diversity training and a social-media policy, the chamber also “plans to take several steps to reach out to LGBT businesses and encourage diversity.” This will include joining Tennessee Thrives, described as “an anti-discrimination initiative launched by businesses across the state.”
3. Massey’s Openly Gay Colleagues Speak Kindly of Her
As The Tennessean notes, one member of the Madison Rivergate Chamber of Commerce is David McMurry, an openly gay man who, according to his biography on HistoricNashvilleInc.org, is among other things a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, a founder of Madison Rivergate’s Relay For Life, a member of Nashville mayor Megan Barry’s 42-member Transition Team (which then-mayor-elect Barry founded in 2015 with the goal of “build[ing] a broad coalition of some of Nashville’s best and brightest to assist me in determining the right organizational structure for my administration and to help find a diverse group of talented candidates to fill those positions”), and current holder of the highest-fundraising record for Madison Station’s Fifty Forward program.
On his Facebook page, McMurry made a post saying that ““As a longtime volunteer and past President of the Madison Rivergate Area Chamber of Commerce, I’ve had the unique pleasure of working closely with Debbie Massey. While the current situation is unfortunate, we wish Debbie every happiness and success as we move forward into the Madison’s renaissance with new Chamber leadership.”
McMurry also said “I thank Mayor Barry for her kind words and remain dedicated to being a great partner in helping our Madison remain a welcoming community, rich with a diverse mixture of residents and businesses. I’m proud to learn the Madison chamber is joining Tennessee Thrives and look forward to building stronger relationships with our local chamber neighbors and working closely with the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce.”
4. Conservative Social Media Blames Last Man Standing’s Cancellation on Anti-Conservative Bias
Massey was hardly the only “Last Man Standing” fan to suggest that the conservative politics of the show or its star might be the reason ABC cancelled the sitcom; a Change.org petition urging ABC to renew the show says that “Last Man Standing was not just selling conservative ideals though, as some of the characters in the show are clearly of the liberal persuasion, yet the characters on the show all manage to get along and take care of one another, despite their politically opposed views. … Last Man Standing is one of the only shows on broadcast television, and the only sitcom, that is not constantly shoving liberal ideals down the throats of the viewers. And sadly, that is likely the real reason the show has been cancelled.”
However, as the Washington Post reports, ABC’s entertainment president said the cancellation was due to “business and scheduling reasons. … “[‘Last Man Standing’] was a challenging one for me because it was a steady performer in the ratings. Once we made the decision to not continue with comedies on Friday, that was where we landed.”
Also, despite the show’s good ratings for ABC, it didn’t offer the network much earning potential because it was produced by 20th Century Fox Studios, not by ABC or its parent company Disney. As Vox explained, ABC “licenses the show from 20th Century Fox, paying a per-episode fee to the studio. Consequently, ABC gets to keep the bulk of the money from advertising. As a show gets older, the studio typically demands a higher and higher licensing fee from the network — the better to recoup more of its production costs. … Since ABC doesn’t own the show, it doesn’t get any of the show’s ancillary revenues — from streaming services and syndication and cable reruns and international broadcasts. Those all go to the studio, Fox. ABC pretty much just collects ad revenue at this point. Thus, ABC has no incentive to keep making more episodes of the show from a financial perspective.”
As NewNowNext pointed out in its coverage of Massey’s rant, in addition to “Last Man Standing,” ABC also canceled The Real O’Neals, a sitcom about a recently out-of-the-closet gay teen, “which does little to help Massey’s unique theory … [that] ABC canceled the show out of fear that gay people would sue the network for not including any same-sex kissing in [Allen’s] sitcom.”
5. Political and Business Leaders Says Embracing Diversity Helps The Economy
At first glance, the notion that Massey lost her paid position with the Chamber of Commerce over an opinion expressed on her Facebook page might look disturbingly like censorship, or punishing an individual for holding unpopular views.
But Massey was specifically a member of her area’s Chamber of Commerce. The Madison Rivergate Chamber of Commerce website specifically says that “Our Mission [is] To enhance the economic and civic interests of Madison through the promotion of business and community.”
After Massey’s Facebook post made local headlines in the Nashville area, Lisa Howe, the CEO of Nashville’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce, told Out & About Nashville that “We believe business leaders benefit when they practice inclusion. Diversity is smart business and good for the Nashville economy. An economy is more likely to reach its potential when all segments of our community are included as consumers, suppliers, business owners, talent, and leaders.”
Nashville mayor Megan Barry went a step further, saying that Massey’s post does not reflect the overall attitude of area businesses and residents. ““I’m glad more than 400 businesses from across Davidson County joined Tennessee Thrives to stand against discrimination and promote being a warm and welcoming city for everyone,” she said.
When former North Carolina governor Pat McCrory signed an anti-LGBT bill into law, the state almost immediately saw economic fallout from the decision: among other things, PayPal cancelled plans to build a new data center that would’ve brought at last 400 jobs to the Charlotte region; multiple companies and organizations cancelled plans to hold conventions in the state; the NBA and NCAA pulled Al-Star and Championship games out of the state; and various film companies including A&E Studios, Turner Broadcasting and Lionsgate pulled future planned productions out of the state. As of January 2017, that bill is estimated to have cost North Carolina more than $560 million in lost jobs, convention and sports-tourism revenue and other income sources. That number is projected to rise to $3.76 billion over the next 12 years, if the law is not repealed.