Monday, March 01, 2004

[The following letter was sent by Kramer to the Times on Feb. 29.]


Mr. Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

Dear Mr. Sulzberger,

I am writing to protest the Times' ridiculous dismissal of Jay Blotcher,
who was an upstate stringer for you, because he had once been a member of
ACT UP. According to reporting on this incident in the Gay City News of
February 26th, Susan Edgerley, the Times' metropolitan editor said, "I am
setting the bar high to protect against any appearance of conflict of
interest that might result through the hiring of stringers and leg-people.
My motivation is expediency as well as ethics." What kind of gobbledegook
is this? Both Ms. Estridge and Jay's editor, Lew Serviss, stated under
questioning by Jay and Duncan Osborne who wrote the Gay City News piece:,
"[Jay's] name was recognized as someone in ACT UP." What kind of
McCarthy-type of blacklisting is this?

Blotcher is a well-known writer for gay publications. He is a fine and
honorable man, much loved by those who know him, without a mean or
spiteful or vindictive or vengeful bone in his body. Jay was praised by
his Times editors and given increasingly more assignments. The stories he
did write had nothing to do with AIDS or gay. Please explain to me where
the conflict of interest lies? He has no current political or activist
affiliations. So where is the conflict of interest? Or unethical behavior?

Indeed, what kind of conflict of interest is being a member of ACT UP so
many years ago? ACT UP was an activist organization that excited the
participation of many many people, both gay and straight, at a time when
gay men were literally dying like flies. There are still a number of
members of your staff who fall into this catetgory of early ACT UP
participants. Perhaps Ms. Edgerley would like me to provide her with the
names of these Times staffers so she can fire them too for conflict of
interest, providing they are still alive, which one of the best-known
Times ACT UPpers, Jeffrey Schmalz, is not. You do not dismiss Larry Altman
from writing for you because of conflict of interest; he writes about the
CDC all the time and he once worked for them. Bernard Weinraub writes
about Hollywood and his wife heads Columbia Pictures. Talk about conflict
of interest. Indeed I have written for your newspaper and your magazine a
number of times and no one appeared to find my contributions unethical.
Indeed, just what kind of "ethics" is Ms. Edgerley referring to? I would
sincerely like to know. And so should you. Yes, it all smacks very much
of McCarthy-type blacklisting to me.

It is a goodly number of years since gay people considered, quite rightly,
the New York Times our enemy, for your unconscionable refusal to write
about us in any but the most hateful of ways, and for so long, and for
your wretched, shameful early lack of coverage of AIDS. And, yes, among
other actions, we marched on your father's Fifth Avenue apartment. Since
then the world has changed and the Times, thank goodness, has changed,
much of this due to your own fine self. To punish now, at this late date,
a member of an organization that is now almost moribund strikes me as
unconscionable behavior on the part of the Times, all over again.

Perhaps you could investigate and enlighten me on just what is going on
here. We are not talking about a full-time or staff writer here. We are
talking about an upstate stringer! If the budget of the Times could no
longer support his meager income from you, then surely someone should just
have fired him and said, "we can't afford you anymore." But to go through
this "conflict of interest" and "ethics" stuff is a rather insensitive and
possibly, if not defamatory, if not homophobic, if not discriminatory,
then perhaps a little bit of each all rolled together into a rather stupid
and inexplicable act on the part of someone on your paper.

If past, or indeed current, political affiliations are cause for
dismissal, then perhaps you should revise your Times Code of Ethics
accordingly or summarily dismiss the scores of NYT staffers who no doubt
fit this bill.

And yes, I founded ACT UP. A long time ago. When we were all very young.
No conflict of interest on this end.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Larry Kramer

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