Chicago Sun-Times

Nixon’s views on gays come as no surprise

Throws around slurs liberally in recording with his top aide


Archie, Nixon and Harvey

think it’s time for those who voted against the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchild­ren’s eyes if they continue that support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”— Sean Penn, accepting the Best Actor Oscar.

Penn’s right, you know. Twenty or 50 or 100 years from now, Americans will wonder why there was ever a fuss about gay marriage. “You mean to tell me it was banned in the early part of the century? That’s crazy.”

On the morning after Penn’s victory, I listened to the YouTube audio (the “video” is just a still photo) of a Richard Nixon tape from May 13, 1971. I’d first heard about this tape when Norm MacDonald mentioned it on Howard Stern’s show.

Nixon is talking to his aide John Ehrlichman. The president is grousing because he had tried to get a baseball game on TV but instead had come across “a movie” about a guy named “Arch.”

“The damnedest thing I ever heard, two magnificen­t, handsome guys and a stupid old fellow and a nice girl— they were glorifying homosexual­ity,” says Nixon.

Nice to know Nixon was so comfortabl­e in his heterosexu­ality that he could talk to Ehrlichman about “two magnificen­t, handsome guys.”

Ehrlichman explains it’s a TV show. The program in question is “All in the Family,” which had debuted a few months earlier and by the end of the year would become a ratings sensation.

Nixon goes into a detailed descriptio­n of an episode in which Archie Bunker discovers a macho former football player is gay.

“God, he’s handsome, virile, strong, and this and that. . . . They’re talking . . . and then this fairy comes into the bar.”

Archie’s son-in-law tells Archie the macho guy is gay. Archie laughingly tells this to his friend— who tells Archie it’s true.

“I turned the goddamned thing off,” says Nixon. “I couldn’t listen to any more.”

“Now, that’s real family entertainm­ent, isn’t it?” says Ehrlichman.

Nixon: “I don’t mind the homosexual­ity. I understand it . . . but goddamn it, I do not think you glorify it . . . any more than you glorify whores.

“Now, we all know that people go to whores, we all know . . . people have weaknesses . . . but goddamn it, what do you think that does to kids? What do you think that does to 11-and 12-year-old boys, why is it that the . . . Boy Scouts . . . we constantly had to clean up the staffs to keep the goddamned fags out of it. . . .

“Do you know what happened to the Romans? The last six Roman emperors were fags.”

This was the mind-set of the president of the United States in the early 1970s, just before a man named Harvey Milk moved from New York to San Francisco.

Nixon: “Let’s look at northern California. . . . You know what’s happened in San Francisco?”

Ehrlichman: “San Francisco has just gone clear over.”

Nixon: “The Bohemian Grove . . . is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine. . . . It’s just terrible. I mean, I don’t even want to shake hands with anybody from San Francisco.”

Harvey Milk wasn’t a saint. But he came out, and he stood strong in an era in which the leader of this country was telling a top aide that he didn’t even want to shake hands with anyone from San Francisco. Kudos to Gus Van Sant, Dustin Lance Black, Sean Penn and everyone else involved in the making of “Milk.”

And shame on those who think God is telling them to protest gay marriage.

Monkey business

An illustrati­on accompanyi­ng a column in Sunday’s Washington Post magazine depicts an ape carrying off a smitten woman while a man stands by, dejected.

The Post ran an “editor’s note” that said: “The headline, illustrati­on and text of a . . . column . . . may cause offense to readers. The magazine was printed before a widely publicized incident last week in which a chimpanzee attacked and badly mauled a woman. . . . In addition, the image and text inadverten­tly may conjure racial stereotype­s that the Post does not countenanc­e. We regret the lapse.”

OK, the infamous New York Post cartoon linking the chimp incident to the economic stimulus package was unfunny and racially offensive. The Washington Post illustrati­on? It accompanie­d a humor column about a study that said women were turned on by bonobos (apes) having sex. The timing of the illustrati­on was unfortunat­e, but there’s nothing racial about it.

No matter. If you’re a cartoonist and you’re even considerin­g putting a chimpape-whatever into an illustrati­on, I guess you better think twice. Curious George wouldn’t stand a chance in 2009.

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