By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pop star Madonna on Saturday presented CNN anchorman Anderson Cooper with a gay media watchdog's top honors in recognition of his stature and accomplishment as an openly gay journalist.
"Love thy neighbor as thyself," she said, decrying anti-gay bullying that sometimes has led to suicide. "It's an atrocity to me, and I don't accept it," she added to enthusiastic applause.
The annual Vito Russo Award is named after the activist and film historian who was one of the founding member of media watchdog group GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
"I am only here tonight because I've benefited from what they and so many others have done," said Cooper, who came out last summer, referring to activists like Russo and Larry Kramer.
The newsman said that "being gay is certainly one of the greatest blessings" of his life, adding that "it opened my head and heart in ways that I never could have predicted."
Past winners have included Suze Orman, Rosie O'Donnell, Elton John and Tom Ford.
Film director Bret Ratner received the ignoble Ally Award, a little over a year after he used a pejorative term for gays at a news conference promoting his stint producing the Oscars.
He quickly stepped down, then worked with GLAAD on a pro-gay public service announcement campaign.
In other awards handed out at the 24th annual ceremony, NBC's "Smash" was named outstanding television drama, and the film about 1980s AIDS activists, "How to Survive a Plague" won for outstanding documentary.
CBS' "The Amazing Race," which has been won by gay couples during its long run, received the award for reality program, while MSNBC's "Being Transgender in America" and "Good Morning America's report "Obama Endorses Marriage Equality" won awards for television journalism.
The Boston Globe, Rolling Stone magazine, City Pages' Andy Mannix, The New York Times' Frank Bruni and The Advocate/Out were among winners for print journalism. "The Whale" and "From White Plains" took the theater honors.
Awards also went to Spanish media including Telemundo, People en Español, voces.huffingtonpost.com and ElDiarioNY.com.
(Editing by Xavier Briand)