40 years ago today - 40 years ago - Jan 17, 1980-Thursday

[Leonard Arrington]
Yesterday during my day home I listened to the morning rebroadcast of the Donahue show which had been done originally on December 23 [1979]. Following that one-hour show, with Sonia Johnson as the sole guest, was the Church's half-hour response in which Beverly Campbell of Virginia LDS Citizens Against ERA responded to questions put by a reporter.

There were several false impressions conveyed by Sonia Johnson and Donahue in the show; first of all, Donahue said that they had invited the Church to make a response-and the Church had refused to do so. This was wrong on two counts; actually they invited [Relief Society president] Barbara Smith to be on the program and Barbara Smith already had appointments which she could not break, and she was not able to appear, and so she asked that Beverly Campbell represent her. But Sonia absolutely refused to appear on the program with Beverly Campbell. So it proved to be a one-woman show with no Church response. The local [Salt Lake City] Channel 4 station, however, offered the Church "in accordance with the fairness doctrine" to present a response, and that is how the Beverly Campbell interview came to be made.

Sonia herself also made a big point of the judge in Idaho who will rule on the validity of extending the ERA deadline. She said that he was a Regional Representative"equivalent of an archbishop"-being prejudiced on this matter against ERA because of his Church commitments. Actually, the judge was released from his Regional Representative position the previous October and so was not that "very high Church official" which Sonia insisted he was. Of course Sonia might have had no way of knowing this, but she might have done her homework and checked with the judge himself on it.

I was not favorably impressed with Sonia and her presentation. Her statements critical of the Church were pretty strong, and she seemed to be playing to the audience, most of whom were obviously militant feminists, and applauded her frequently. Sonia seemed to be enjoying holding the Church and its officials up to ridicule. ...

Beverly Campbell talked very fast and said a great deal in the half hour she had. What she said seemed to be both reasonable and accurate, and also honest and forthright. ..

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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