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Larry Gross: Abe Rosenthal’s Reign of Homophobia at The New York Times

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Posted on May 16, 2006
Abe Rosenthal
AP

A.M. Rosenthal, seen here in 1965, was a demanding editor who lifted The New York Times from economic doldrums in the 1970s and molded it into a journalistic juggernaut known for distinguished reporting of national and world affairs. He died May 10 at age 84.

By Larry Gross

The death of former New York Times Executive Editor Abe Rosenthal on May 10 was front-page news, and not only in The New York Times. One of the dominant figures in journalism in the late 20th century when newspapers were still a force to be reckoned with and the Internet wasn’t even a gleam in anyone’s eye, Rosenthal’s finest hour was the epic 1971 battle with the Nixon White House over the publication of the Pentagon Papers. However, there is a side to Abe Rosenthal that was not noted in the obituaries and recollections splashed across many inches of newsprint.

The New York Times is not just another newspaper. In the words of former Times columnist Sydney Schanberg, it is “the newspaper that interprets the establishment to the establishment; that tells the establishment what it is doing and how it should be done.”  The immense power of the Times generally has made the paper fairly slow to notice or respond to changes in society, as the paper seems to feel it has a responsibility to serve as a brake rather than a locomotive. At least this was the case in the 1960s as gay people began to become more visible in American society. The Times’ well-known motto is “All the news that’s fit to print,” and for a long time it was clear that gay people’s stories were unfit.

The news media are well known for not having clearly stated rules of procedure, but rather relying on an instinct known as “news judgment”—knowing what is and is not a “story,” whether a story deserves front-page or back-page placement, and how a story should be presented. In fact, of course, there are rules. Some are written down in the guidelines that most media organizations maintain, but the most important rules are those learned by editors and reporters by observing what happens when someone breaks one. Such critical incidents provide everyone in a news organization with dramatic evidence that an unwritten rule exists and must be observed, and it was in this way that editors and reporters at The New York Times learned that the topic of homosexuality was not popular with the higher-ups.

In 1975 the Sunday travel section ran an article that was certainly unusual for The New York Times. Not only was the piece open about sexuality in a fashion that was not typical of the Times—the paper did not print the word “penis” until 1976, when it appeared in a Personal Health column about impotence—but the sexuality the article was open about was homosexuality. The story was called “The All-Gay Cruise: Prejudice and Pride,” by a free-lancer named Cliff Jahr, and it described a weeklong ocean cruise taken by 300 gay men and lesbians. The article was hip and sexy in a most un-Times-like fashion—Jahr quotes one man as boasting, “I’ve met three Mister Rights before lunch.” It was also imbued with an awareness of the gay experience, noting that the cruise gave the passengers a respite from the oppression of closeted lives.

Publisher Arthur Sulzberger was furious. According to some accounts, travel section editor Robert Stock and Sunday editor Max Frankel were nearly fired over the incident. Another person who was angered by the piece was then managing editor Abe Rosenthal, whose reign as executive editor was to last from 1977 to 1986.

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As Rosenthal ascended to the top of the Times ladder, his prejudices defined the unspoken but nevertheless unmistakable rules for deciding what was fit to print. As journalist and writer Charles Kaiser, who worked at the Times under Rosenthal, put it, “Everyone below Rosenthal spent all of their time trying to figure out what to do to cater to his prejudices. One of these widely perceived prejudices was Abe’s homophobia. So editors throughout the paper would keep stories concerning gays out of the paper.”

One such story happened in November 1980, when a homophobic gunman went on a rampage in Greenwich Village, killing two gay men and wounding seven others with machine-gun fire. The story was front-page news in the Post and the Daily News but not in the New York Times. The metropolitan editor knew Rosenthal’s feelings about gays and knew, as he later said, that “you had to be careful with the subject.”

Abe Rosenthal’s homophobia was felt at the Times in two ways: It ensured that lesbian and gay reporters stayed firmly in the closet, and that the word “gay” was not used in the paper to describe gay people. The furor over the travel section article was the critical incident inscribed in the paper’s unwritten rule book. As Jeff Schmalz, a Times editor, later recalled, “There was a lot of shouting about it. Abe thought it was a mistake and that we never should have done it. And we’d used the word ‘gay.’ He said we could never use that word again.”  And, for the most part they didn’t. The word crept into news stories and headlines from time to time, but the paper’s official policy ruled the word “gay” out of order, while at the same time the gay liberation movement was exploding all around it. Rosenthal was not limited in his biases to anti-gay prejudice—he also refused to allow the word “Ms.” to be used until 1986—but his homophobia proved tragic when the AIDS crisis erupted on his watch.

As the AIDS epidemic began to emerge, the silence of the media in general, and of The New York Times in particular, contributed to the magnitude of the unfolding tragedy. Although the death toll mounted in the early 1980s, the Times maintained a disdainful distance. As gay journalist Michelangelo Signorile put it, “Rosenthal, who attacks anti-Semitism in the media, never realized that the way he was treating the AIDS epidemic wasn’t much different from the way that news organizations treated the Holocaust early on.”

Ironically, the media blackout that broke the patience of many gay activists was not the report of a medical breakthrough but a fundraiser. In April 1983 the Gay Men’s Health Crisis arranged a circus benefit that sold out Madison Square Garden, filling it with 18,000 lesbians, gay man and others. The arena was not only jampacked; it was star-studded: Leonard Bernstein led “The Star Spangled Banner.” The event was covered by television and the newspapers, but not The New York Times.

A group of lesbian and gay activists wrote to the publisher demanding a meeting and was offered an “off the record” meeting with a Times vice president. The meeting was not successful in obtaining changes in policy, but it did result in a second meeting, this time with Executive Editor Rosenthal. Rosenthal admitted that not covering the circus benefit had been a mistake, and even agreed that the paper should do more to cover AIDS. But he was unwilling to budge on the use of the word “gay” or to move very far in any direction toward meeting the demands of the lesbian and gay community. Yet even this small opening permitted some fresh air to penetrate the Times’ closeted atmosphere, and several people from the paper called to thank the activists for their efforts. The real changes at the Times did not come until there was a changing of the guard on 43rd Street.

As journalist Sam Anson later put it, “the relief that swept through the newsroom the morning of October 16, 1986, was palpable, almost giddy.” Abe Rosenthal had reached the mandatory retirement age of 65, and was replaced as executive editor by Max Frankel. Rosenthal’s reign was described by many as a period of paranoia and terror at the Times—one reporter said, “He was like the czar; people would get gulaged at the drop of a hat.” But if the feeling of relief was general, it was especially felt by lesbian and gay employees. Frankel lost little time in letting people know that times had indeed changed, and that included the paper’s attitudes toward gay people and stories affecting them.

One of the first areas in which Frankel’s piloting of the Times became apparent was the coverage of AIDS. Within a few months of his taking over, the paper published its first serious articles on the impact of AIDS on New York—a four-part series, each installment of which began on the front page. Within a year a media writer for the Los Angeles Times quoted medical authorities and other journalists as rating the New York Times AIDS coverage as some of the best then appearing anywhere.

In the summer of 1987 Frankel made a second major change by authorizing a memo from the managing editor: “Starting immediately, we will accept the word ‘gay’ as an adjective meaning homosexual, in references to social or cultural patterns and political issues.” According to a former Times staffer, Frankel sent a memo to publisher Sulzberger, “Punch, you’re going to have to swallow hard on this one: We’re going to start using the word gay.” Frankel was aware of the impact this change would have on the morale of the lesbian and gay employees at the paper—“I knew they’d had a hard time, and I knew they weren’t comfortable identifying themselves as gay”—but he may not have been aware of the extent to which the change signaled the start of a new era in the Times’ coverage of gay issues.

In reporting on Abe Rosenthal’s funeral on May 14, James Barron wrote that William Safire, a former Op-Ed columnist who writes the “On Language” column for The New York Times Magazine, noted that Rosenthal had often said that he wanted his epitaph to be, “He kept the paper straight.”

Damn straight.

Larry Gross is the director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and is a pioneer in the field of gay and lesbian studies.


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By julian miller, May 20, 2006 at 2:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Abe Rosenthal is indefensible when his homophobia greatly affected initial coverage of the AIDS crisis and through the worst years of the plague.

nappyblack, you’re an idiot b/c you think coverage of one thing excludes coverage of another.  I seriously doubt you were an adult in the early 80’s or else you were in some back water.  You should seriously STFU when you talk so blithely about the early years of the AIDS crisis.  How dare you. You ar so ignorant.

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By CJD, May 20, 2006 at 9:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Nappyblack says ‘like it or not.’
The mewlings of old men sound so much like the mewlings of babies. Both are ridiculous without even knowing it.
And your comment: “Heterosexuality is the dominant and classical human sexually bonding trait.” Well, Socrates thought otherwise.
But you know best, probably.

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By Colonel, May 20, 2006 at 9:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Abe Rosenthal was not such a bad guy after all, was he?

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By nappyblack, May 19, 2006 at 11:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My dear Mr. Coleman (#9899): Certainly you realize that no one is really swayed by my (or even Mr. Homo’s) “high moral tone” but perhaps the high road is what we should be taking here rather than mudslinging, name calling, and the ugliest slurs by the mis-informed.

Even though media since Gutenberg’s press and the mass publication of the pastiche forgeries and often bad copies known as the Bible books have often incited, swayed, and for better or for worse informed the public, when since even the Black Death, syphillis, or small pox in Europe has even word of mouth - let alone publications and Papal Bulls - really ever stopped an epidemic in its tracks with information. Even when people in NY and other metropolises were told (even lectured loudly!) by other journals (including medical journals and CDC warnings!) and newspapers there and here of preliminary findings about the possible disastrous transmission of the epidemic causing illness through anal sexual contact (with strangers no less!) and sharing needles, they summarily and blissfully REFUSED to stop what they were doing even in the face of facts and micro-biological investigation, experimentation and speculation to the contrary.

I have had a few dear friends die from this terrible sickness and their obits reported other causes, of course. We still refuse to face facts and therefore must have our way. We blame others for our grief and scream and spit like petulant children in the faces of those who deliver the truth and real help. We denigrate the words and ideas of those who offer restraint. We who have peeked into the gates of true insanity have only ourselves to blame when the show does not come off very well or when we die because WE decided to have our way, our sex, our drugs, our “lifestyle” and our irresponsibility which we blame on dead goats who did not move fast enough to save us from ourselves.

And since when should it ever be the policy of any newspaper or journal to scream at their drone audiences with caveats about their stubbornly insistent personal sexuality. In fact you say: “extensive factual coverage and plain talk in the big time media would have made a big difference, but it just wasn’t there.” Of course it was there in other journals even when they were only speculating and did not know for sure. Big time media - taking for example the opposite tack to racism - raged against that of the South but it did little to retard racism and eventually the world was changed in the Movement for basic civil rights. Plain talk happened when it should have and when the facts came in! Of course, there are and will always be those who refuse to believe it or see things as they are! Now papers like the NY and the LA Times are to be believed or they are not. You cannot take facts or even intelligent speculation and use them as they suit you. Moreover, it is not the business of media to spoon feed us our castor oil dosages of what we should and should not do.

Heterosexuality is the dominant and classical human sexually bonding trait and we hets refer to it with impunity - the best of us with dignity and love. And naturally of course we refer to our very private lives in other media not generally reported in the LA Times most of whose writers are heterosexual I imagine and so what! If I don’t want to watch “Will & Grace” I won’t. (It’s going off the air because the jokes and stories are hackneyed and uninteresting and because the “hets” don’t like it or prefer the “gay” stuff! So what!) Again, you as others want our APPROVAL, forget it for all you can hope to receive is our law abiding tolerance, remembering that you too should receive the same benefits of life, liberty and happy decent pursuits as anyone else and certainly not at my expense.

I am neither a bigot nor an idiot - but what I am is a loyal dissident especially with bullshit and this taint of neo-fascist rhetoric peppered with name calling and misinformation. I did not struggle for this as a youth.  In whatever else he may have been AM Rosenthal did stand for the higher aspirations of culture, government and society even going so far as to vehemently disagree with the awful war in Vietnam and an out of control executive branch all for which I went to prison; and still I believe in a strong standing citizen controlled military. Neither was he (or his “homosexual phobia”) the cause for the NY epidemic and the many deaths. This is an age of projective blame for personal systemic mis-direction and our very own stubborn neurotic obsessions.

Like it or not!

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By nappyblack, May 19, 2006 at 11:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My dear Mr. Coleman (#9899): Certainly you realize that no one is really swayed by my (or even Mr. Homo’s) “high moral tone” but perhaps the high road is what we should be taking here rather than mudslinging, name calling, and the ugliest slurs by the mis-informed.

Even though media since Gutenberg’s press and the mass publication of the pastiche forgeries and often bad copies known as the Bible books have often incited, swayed, and for better or for worse informed the public, when since even the Black Death, syphillis, or small pox in Europe has even word of mouth - let alone publications and Papal Bulls - really ever stopped an epidemic in its tracks with information. Even when people in NY and other metropolises were told (even lectured loudly!) by other journals (including medical journals and CDC warnings!) and newspapers there and here of preliminary findings about the possible disastrous transmission of the epidemic causing illness through anal sexual contact (with strangers no less!) and sharing needles, they summarily and blissfully REFUSED to stop what they were doing even in the face of facts and micro-biological investigation, experimentation and speculation to the contrary.

I have had a few dear friends die from this terrible sickness and their obits reported other causes, of course. We still refuse to face facts and therefore must have our way. We blame others for our grief and scream and spit like petulant children in the faces of those who deliver the truth and real help. We denigrate the words and ideas of those who offer restraint. We who have peeked into the gates of true insanity have only ourselves to blame when the show does not come off very well or when we die because WE decided to have our way, our sex, our drugs, our “lifestyle” and our irresponsibility which we blame on dead goats who did not move fast enough to save us from ourselves.

And since when should it ever be the policy of any newspaper or journal to scream at their drone audiences with caveats about their stubbornly insistent personal sexuality. In fact you say: “extensive factual coverage and plain talk in the big time media would have made a big difference, but it just wasn’t there.” Of course it was there in other journals even when they were only speculating and did not know for sure. Big time media - taking for example the opposite tack to racism - raged against that of the South but it did little to retard racism and eventually the world was changed in the Movement for basic civil rights. Plain talk happened when it should have and when the facts came in! Of course, there are and will always be those who refuse to believe it or see things as they are! Now papers like the NY and the LA Times are to be believed or they are not. You cannot take facts or even intelligent speculation and use them as they suit you. Moreover, it is not the business of media to spoon feed us our castor oil dosages of what we should and should not do.

Heterosexuality is the dominant and classical human sexually bonding trait and we hets refer to it with impunity - the best of us with dignity and love. And naturally of course we refer to our very private lives in other media not generally reported in the LA Times most of whose writers are heterosexual I imagine and so what! If I don’t want to watch “Will & Grace” I won’t. Again, you as others want our APPROVAL, forget it for all you can hope to receive is our law abiding tolerance, remembering that you too should receive the same benefits of life, liberty and happy decent pursuits as anyone else and certainly not at my expense.

I am neither a bigot nor an idiot - but what I am is a loyal dissident especially with bullshit and this taint of neo-fascist rhetoric peppered with name calling and misinformation. I did not struggle for this as a youth.  In whatever else he may have been AM Rosenthal did stand for the higher aspirations of culture, government and society even going so far as to vehemently disagree with the awful war in Vietnam and an out of control executive branch all for which I went to prison; and still I believe in a strong standing citizen controlled military. Neither was he (or his “homosexual phobia”) the cause for the NY epidemic and the many deaths. This is an age of projective blame for personal systemic mis-direction and our very own stubborn neurotic obsessions.

Like it or not!

Report this

By nappyblack, May 19, 2006 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I must heartily congratulate Zephemera and most especially Mr. DeStephano for their ugly, insupportable, and, alas, cowardly comments levied against my own considerable personal opinion and for wholly supporting my point! Apparently free speech and debate according to this Mr. DeStephano character is certainly as dead in America as AM Rosenthal. And Mr. (?) Zephemera simply and rhetorically asks if I am a homosexual. <LOL> The article by Mr. Gross is still and remains: bullshit and slanderous propaganda, in spite of Rosenthals personal views even about me. Who says that an editor of a newspaper cannot be even eponymously opinionated about his or her personal views? AM Rosenthal never published a letter calling me a fucking idiot! Black Americans have been living with vicious archetypes for dozens of years that until just a lifetime ago peppered the newspapers and film media with us as coons and bubble-lipped slack jawed apes.

Why assassinate human beings after they are dead and tar them with your very own homosexual cravings and moral depravity while they are alive?  Apparently, anyone who disagrees with these neo-fascist bullies, victims, and con-artists (calling themselves writers such DeStephano) are themselves - THEMSELVES -  toxic homophobic homosexuals, neocons, fucking idiots, and so on. Do you see it - these charges and the levelling of my own opinion - in the screaming harrangue of this DeStephano creature? I am interested to see if anyone else sees these ravings for exactly what they are: psychopathy from those who, as Dr. Rollo May once postulated in that same NY Times Op-Ed page many years ago that instructed the culture like it or not,  you disastrously become what you yourselves fear and loathe, such that you are or become by the heated interchange or exchange of fearful behavioral traits what you hate, WHAT YOU HATE.

AM Rosenthal’s personal opinions about anyone or any group of people - particularly the have nots among “the others” in our society - went to the grave with him but the immeasurable good that he really did perform lives on, like it or not.

And I deeply and stridently disagreed with him about many things when it came to a recognition of the immense contribution of African Americans & Hispanic Americans for example for the past two centuries on this continent. Moreover, he was, nor is not now personally responsible for the deaths of drug addicts and homosexuals in New York as these gross (pun unintended) and shrill “writers” and popcorn junior mint tyrants would have you gullibly believe in their slant and skew of the truth.

Apparently, Bob Scheer, you have opened your blog up to homosexual propagandists and thugs who seem to be no different as I stated in another comment here to Hitler’s Sturmabteilung and certainly not very much different than the loudly shrill American Right Wing they hate so much!. Can you see this, readers?

For your information, folks, I am old freedom fighter, a poet, an artist, a producer, a scholar and quite lovingly straight and of course opinionated. What you do legally (mutually consented) behind close doors and blinds is your own business and neither merits a civil right movement nor my approval; but your sexual proclivites will merit my tolerance as long as you do not injure or slander others living or dead with it! Damn Straight, by the Grace of God!

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By Tom Coleman, May 19, 2006 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Excellent article on Abe Rosnthal’s NYT sanctioned homophobia by Larry Gross.  In their own words, Nappyblack and Mr. Homo’s amply demonstrate that anti-gay bigotry and misinformation about the history of AIDS reporting remain alive if not so well in these modern times—and oh how defensive they get about it.  For instance, how could the specific mode of transmission of AIDS be “widely known” when the New York Times (and the Los Angeles Times for that matter) were “early on” so skittish about even reporting anal sex, use of condoms, as well as funding, research and testing for drugs that have saved millions of lives more recently. Regardless of one’s point of view, extensive factual coverage and plain talk in the big time media would have made a big difference, but it just wasn’t there “early on” before the “ego driven, self-righteous and self-piteous homosexual lobby” got involved and got vocal to help save those lives later on.  It’s the information and medications that saved lives, not the high moral tone of nappyblack and “Mr. Homo.”

And speaking of the Los Angeles Times, at least the New York Times has recently had some openly gay reporters and columnists. The Los Angeles version has had none due to the internal policies of the paper discouraging such writers while the hets are allowed to write and refer to their “private” lives again and again in its august pages (nappyblack in particular must be horrified by this rampant, righteous, neo-facsist heterosexual exhibitionism).  Will be looking for a “left coast” follow-up to Gross’s timely chronicle of the Rosenthal era.

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By George De Stefano, May 19, 2006 at 8:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Nappyblack’s a fucking idiot and a lowdown anti-gay bigot to boot. Fuck you, on behalf of all my queer brothers and sisters. Larry’s article was excellent and it’s truthful, unlike the numerous puffpieces that have appeared in the wake of the demise of the dreadful Abe Rosenthal. Charles Kaiser’s New York Observer kiss-ass encomium to that wretched man was one of the absolute worst.

I wrote a cover feature for The Advocate in 1986 about homophobia at the Times. I interviewed a number of former Times reporters, as no current ones would speak to me, such was their fear of retribution from Rosenthal. Even such an eminence as Syd Schanberg would speak only for background, and he’d left the Times! But what he told me about Rosenthal’s vicious homophobia, and how it affected what the Times did and did not cover, was powerful stuff.

I also interviewed Cliff Jahr for the piece, and he told me that the brouhaha over his article was instigated by an outraged Iphigenia Sulzberger. 

Rosenthal wasn’t only an anti-gay bigot. He was also a racist. Schanberg told me that black and brown people were “a mystery” to Rosenthal, but Schanberg was being overly generous. The creep was an out and out racist. One of his worst offenses was his relentless promotion of the “war on drugs,” a fiasco that has criminalized and imprisoned countless blacks and Latinos. (After he stepped down as editor, he often used his laughably awful column to promote draconian anti-drug policies.)Rosenthal also was a Jewish chauvinist, a militant zionist neocon who thought his tribe was better than all others and who felt US foreign policy in the Mideast should basically boil down to, let Israel do whatever the fuck it wants to the Palestinians and make sure the US tax dollars keep flowing to support the landgrabs and repression.

An odious man, whose passing is unlamented by many, including me.

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By I. Liberatus, May 19, 2006 at 7:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you for this excellent, accurate portrayal of the NYT under Rosenthal and Frankel. The ignorant screed posted by nappyblack shows just how important this reporting is. As late as 1983, Rosenthal forbade any description of how AIDS was thought to be transmitted. Publishing information of the possible causes cited by nappyblack, “sharing needles, unprotected anal intercourse,” was strictly prohibited until 1984, as the Democratic National Convention approached, when it became obvious that such information needed to be conveyed to the arriving politicians, at least, so they could protect themselves.

I remember I was working the night of the GMHC Circus at Madison Square Garden, and how sad I was to miss it. I consoled myself with the certain knowledge that at least there would be major coverage that I could read. Well, there was major coverage—in the gay press. Not one word in the NYT. Ridiculous.

I could go on and on. As noted, the word gay itself was verboten. Obituaries, which were supposed to encapsulate a life just ended, were forced to lie by omitting the survivors of gay people.  I proposed a multipart series on gay life in America to my boss, who said he would forward it to Rosenthal after stripping my name off it for my own protection! Needless to say, it went directly to the circular file.

When Frankel arrived, he asked me to resubmit the series proposal; every article ran, and more. What a breath of fresh air, after years of repression!

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By nappyblack, May 18, 2006 at 11:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My dear friends: Here is another example of not only Southwestern American chauvinism among devotees (alumnae?) of popular Collegia but sheer (pun unintended!) ignorance from such as poor Nellie (comment #9698). The net’s birth was not at UCLA in 1969, sweetheart, and probably not in Southern California! It was a military-science research and corporation creation to network information between research facilities, research foundations, research schools and the military begun in the fifties on the eastern seaboard and more fully formed as early as 1959 when computers and researchers could exchange information chat via binary code over telephone lines!

The so-called internet (military net) gives conspiracy theorists and their ideas, ignoramuses, the semi-literate, semi-educated, and those with axes to grind with their slander and misinformation light speed!

Also…How “painful” was Judith Miller’s tenure? Forgive please the following oversimplificatiion: Newspaper organizations (if not outright propangandistic, and on the slander edge,  like Fox) are vulnerable - and not necessarily evil (unlike Rupert’s Fox) per se - because they are made up of folks who gullibly receive what they perceive through their reliable reporters is reliable information; and they make mistakes usually because of the prevarication and greed of self-aggrandizing individuals on the payroll who would do anything (such as lazily cut corners and not do the footwork) such as climb upon the backs of others for their own gain! (Another pun unintended for this miserably slanderous “article” about anti-homosexual conspiratoria!) This comment writer - following this Gross guy’s lead - forgets what the LA Times did to Bob Scheer by his summary dismissal from Jeffrey Johnson! (I am still angry about it!)

There are a lot more and pressing issues than Abe Rosenthal’s and (more laughably) Mayor Koch’s “homophobia”!!! AIDS in Africa is killing hundreds of thousands each month, though the numbers, thank God, are being reduced a bit!. We here are fighting an international two-front so-called and (mis-called) war on terrorism, American domestic selfishness and self-righteous racism is at an all time high, and this great column allows nuts like Larry Gross the space to publish this meretricious, baseless and spurious mudslinging against a dead man - blaming the entire disease epidemic in New York and the deaths of homosexuals upon the former mayor and managing editor of the Times. Abe Rosenthal was many things but he was not a fascist. He had to run a paper of which Mr. Scheer’s former publication, Ramparts, was thankfully not a part. However, he possibly might have brought Bob Scheer aboard as a free lance op-ed page journalist opposite the mean spirited William Safire far longer than this Johnson nut who fired at him at the LA Times, did. I don’t hear anyone goring this same bumbling LA Times as beinng the corporate subsidiary of Lucifer.

Is the truthdig submitting to the same folly as so many others: that is acquisescing to the dictatorship of the vulgar, the stupid,  and the powerless by this piece of drivel: imagine a conspiracy among newspapers (long after Hearst’s reign) to keep homosexual males and drug addicts in the closet and deny them medical attention when they engage in acts that can only be interpreted as suicidal! [Hey Nellie, honey, do you finally get it?]

Larry Gross: please research your writing a lot better than this and please do not pass. I don’t wanna be blamed for it! And get a decently compassionate life for the living and certainly one not based upon the cowardice of attacking the deceased!

Hey, Bob and you other editors, get this damned crap off the Truthdig, please. You ought to have seen this shit coming or read it over, at least, before you put it on the net. You are feeding the paranoia of a whole generation of Nellies by letting this Gross guy get away with terrible character assassination and unresearched content. He should have gotten his facts right, or at the very least, you should have published this garbage as a simple harrangue from a very angry self piteous person - and with a caveat that herein may not lie the truth. This was personal opinion: such as this comment!

Hey folks, are we dealing with a growing Neo-Sturmabteilung from both the Right and the Left in a new American polity.  I just dare you to publish my second comment here.

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By Zephemera, May 18, 2006 at 10:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Nappyblack. On the down low?

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By nappyblack, May 18, 2006 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bullshit! I submit that this article does not belong in Mr. Scheer’s Truthdig of which I am a devotee. This writing seems to be a sort of posthumous calumny from an apologist for the homosexual lobby.

Sharing needles, unprotected anal intercourse, & unprotected intercourse with many partners - particularly among orgiasts homosexual or heterosexual - creates this infectious disease and recent epidemic known as Acquired Immunological Deficiency Syndrome - which we are beginning to understand is a recurring pandemic that is probably as old as mankind and freely occuring or waiting to germinate within much human tissue the world over as hepato-immuno-virus

Homophobia is not a word. What it is is a very badly coined word for perhaps what might be a genuine and healthy fear in some individuals for same sex sexual contact. As long as this fear does not manifest itself as violence against anyone else - then we as a society can deal with it. If I have such a fear it is none of your business.

Gay is a euphemism created from a word from the middle English defined as merry.

Homosexuals desire that heterosexuals approve of their “sexual orientation and lifestyle” which the overwhelming majority of mankind does not.

Mankind is beginning to tolerate it and should not be a cause celebre for special civil rights and civil liberties legislation.

The correct cause of legislation and maintenance of civil liberties is the creation and protection of peace by lawful assembly and basic freedom of expression in our polity and living in freedom from violence directed against any one person or group of persons which probably should include one’s “sexual orientation.”

One’s legal and consenting sexual orientation and proclivities are one’s personal business and to that end Abe Rosenthal was a fine and decent managing editor of The NYT given the often horrific circumstances of the 20th Century, the circumstances of his upbringing, and the limitations imposed upon him at the newspaper: such limitations he did exercise, albeit however slowly, in the uplift of human beings generally, like it or not. These specialized little flavor of the month movements eddying out of that century reflect the folly rather than the substance of great ideas for the overall uplift spiritually and mentally of mankind.

What you do behind closed doors and blinds is your own damned business (so long as it does not include me, rape or molestation of children and in end the spread of vicious slander to surface in the public as journalism)! The generallty ego-driven, self-righteous and self piteous homosexual lobby is becoming tyrannical and despotic thought policemen just closed minded and terrible in extremis as their counterparts among the neo-fascists among the American ignorant in the so-called but mis-called right wing conservatives and Christians - which they most often are not.

This unbalanced and badly quoted so-called article borders on slander and rates a huge thumbs down for the very prejudice it rails against! I suppose you folks thought we could not or would not see it here.

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By Mr. Homo, May 17, 2006 at 9:59 pm Link to this comment
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The NY Times is responsible for many deaths by AIDS?  Forgive me, but I thought those deaths were caused by irresponsible men who decided to insert their penises into others’asses, notwithstanding the fact that it was widely known, early on, that such behavior was highly correlated with AIDS.  What a cop out.  Irresponsible people caused the epidemic, not the NY Times.  Give me a break.

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By Edward Hudaverdi, May 17, 2006 at 2:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe now that the Times is so with it they’ll stop using apostrophes to make plurals.

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By Elihu Katz, May 17, 2006 at 11:12 am Link to this comment
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This is an important insight into the workings of the NYT as well as other major newspapers,  Apart from its specific reference, it makes the point that organizations have “cultures,” often internalized even when unspoken and sometimes unformulated, and that hegemony may operate withoout explicit dictate.

The detail in Gross’ documentation is exemplary, and obviously could not have been assembled in the few days sice Rosenthal’s death.  It shows, usefully,  that social movements have archival resources at the ready.  The only thing I remain unpersuaded about is whether a newspaper’s stand is well measured by its willingness to adopt a group’s self-designation.

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By mystic, May 17, 2006 at 10:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you so much for explaining the turnabout at the New York Times. Rosenthal’s departure came 6 years into the AIDS crisis, so one may conclude that he, like Mayor Koch, contributed in large part to the deaths of thousands of gay people. Their silence, and that of many others, including that of the Catholic Church,helped prevent the advertisement of the positive preventative measures of safe sex. Koch, who I have seen skulking into gay movies at the Quad cinema, had been called a “murderer” to his face by Larry Kramer. And now Rosenthal deserves that appellation as well. One can sense that one day we will look at the New York Times again and remember its silence in the current political maelstrom (implications intended).
One would have thought that, because Rosenthal and Koch were Jewish, they would have been even more sensitive to a group of people targeted by Hitler. There were many others (Reagan included) who ignored the deaths of gay men in those early years (Andy Rooney and John Simon come to mind as being celebrative), but it was only when AIDS hit the heterosexual community that this stopped.

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By Wendy Leibowitz, May 17, 2006 at 9:06 am Link to this comment
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I was so glad to read this piece, puncturing the hommage-like coverage to Abe Rosenthal. He was a fine young reporter who became a cruel and capricious editor. The sexism at the Times was as legendary as its homophobia, and also emanted from the top.
Yes, he was brave when it came to standing up for the First Amendment and the Pentagon Papers, but that’s what I would expect of any journalist. To truly advance at the paper, you had to emulate Rosenthal’s career path and attitudes, it seems. Thank you for writing this.
It will take a while for the paper to recover. His son is reputed to be a chip off the ol’ block.

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By Chuck Anziulewicz, May 17, 2006 at 8:56 am Link to this comment
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Very interesting article. One would think that Abe Rosenthal’s obsessive avoidance of the term “gay” would be a quaint anachronism today. But not so at the Washington Times, where the word may only be used in a headline, a quotation, or when it is part of an organization’s name; in all other instances the much more clinical-sounding term “homosexual” is stipulated.

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By Nellie, May 17, 2006 at 6:45 am Link to this comment
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All information, is, in the final analysis, subject to the biases of the messenger. This is why one source is never enough, even the source of record. This story is an excellent example of what can heppen when we trust any single voice to serve unerringly and without an agenda. We learned the lesson again recently with the painful experience of Judith Miller’s tenure.

And here is why the internet is such a precious information source—to be protected from corporate takeover and the chill of surveillance. Its millions of messengers guarantee a certain kind of objectivity—as this site illustrates. In its present unedited and uncensored form, the net has become our most reliable news conduit.

A minor correction: The internet was certainly a gleam in someone’s eye as early as the md 20th Century. It’s birth occurred at UCLA in 1969.

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