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Outing the NYT Ed Koch Obit

Ed Koch
Ed Koch
Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York City, has died. He was 88. The only time I ever met him was at a press conference in the late 1980s. I was an undergrad at New York University studying journalism. He was there to answer questions from the student press.

I never got to ask a question, but I did hear a question that I had never before heard asked of a politician and certainly never heard answered: "Are you gay?" was the question. The answer: "No, next question."

Although Koch said those words with a smirk on his face, his tone was noncombative. He looked at no one in particular as he answered, pointing randomly to the crowd to get a quick question that would change the subject.

What strikes me the most about that moment is that his answer in public never changed. Despite his support for LGBT rights, activists have pointed to his closeted life as one of the reasons he didn't do enough for AIDS. Perhaps Koch was a ninja expert at keeping his heterosexuality in the closet, but I would argue the testimony of countless credible sources that he was gay is overwhelming.

While this is all old news to me, I was struck today by a straight colleague who said casually that he had never even heard of the Koch-is-gay stuff until now. Just goes to show how some issues are more relevant to some of us than others. And there's nothing unusual about that.

That phenomenon explains why many folks, even former adversaries of Koch, praised his accomplishments in the wake of his death while others were disturbed by a seemingly deliberate omission of discussion about his inaction in the early days of the AIDS pandemic.

It's not my style to dance on graves. I don't want my loved ones to be hurt by any dancing on my grave, so on this matter I remain a Golden Rule adherent. That said, I do not consider discussing Koch's inaction on AIDS in and of itself as dancing on his grave.

He was a public figure. As such, scrutiny of his public record isn't personal, it's a matter of public concern. And journalists especially shouldn't shy away from telling the facts of the lives of public people, especially in their obituaries.

The New York Times obituary of Koch originally did just that. The Huffington Post reports that the word "AIDS" was mentioned only once in the first version of the NYT obit, which was 5,500 words long, in a reference to "the scandals and the scourges of crack cocaine, homelessness and AIDS."

A few hours later three paragraphs about his handling of AIDS were added, but the NYT wrote that "hundreds of New Yorkers were desperately ill or dying" in the 1980s when in fact it was tens of thousands. Even in its attempts at correcting the record, the NYT fell short. As of this writing, that incorrect fact has not been updated.

Some activists go as far as to accuse Koch of murder because of his inaction on AIDS, but that is too far for me. Discussing his inaction on AIDS, however, shouldn't be too far for anyone.

Oriol on:


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Comments on Oriol R. Gutierrez Jr.'s blog entry "Outing the NYT Ed Koch Obit"

I am not straight, plus I am not from New York and never heard that this former mayor was gay, but if the shoe fits. I am reading a book right now called Full Service by Scotty Bowers a straight guy that serviced many of Holly Wood's gay elites from the 1940s until now. Mr. Bowers is still alive and proud of his straight services to the Gay Elite around the world in sharing his need to be sexual with the likes of Prince Edward, who advocated the British Crown to be King in the 30's to others like, Gary Grant, Randolph Scott, Cole Porter, Rock Hudson, etc., one must read this book, for it tells a part of the oppressed dark walk of gay folks in the past and the joys too of old Holly Wood then and surly now. Also, He would set up tricks or introduce others famous closeted people like; Katherine Hepburn to his network of elite lesbian’s friends, which then became one of a hundred or more part time lovers for Katherine Hepburn according to Mr. Bower. The writer Scotty Bowers tells of his learned vocational skills to set up tricks in the 40s for famous people and personally preforming sexual acts to the elite folks while coining the street term “Trick”, as a way of promoting his business to earn a few more coins in his pocket and his tone makes one believe he really enjoyed the freedom in helping these sexually oppressed gay people and himself to sexual pleasure, while making a few bucks. So, after reading this book Full Service, I am not surprise who is gay, bi or straight any more or who is in-between the sheets with New York’s mayor.

It amazes me that in 2013 the mainstream media continues to reluctant to include a person's sexual orientation in their obituaries of public figures. That Ed Koch was probably gay is not as important than a gay man not doing all, he could for the HIV plague then enveloping his city. And for the NYT to add insult to injury by stating that "hundreds" of New Yorkers were ill or dying from AIDS [in the early 1980s] in a so-called update to Koch's obit is beyond the pale.

Gutierrez, Your comments are outrageous. The man is dead. Whether or not he didn’t do enough to stem the spread of AIDS; does it matter now? I know of hundreds of openly Gay men and HIV+ who are out there infecting people ... How does this type of column meet the mission of this publication?

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This page contains a single entry by Oriol R. Gutierrez Jr. published on February 4, 2013 4:16 PM.

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