Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Punch Sulzberger's Queer Jokes 
& Banning 'Gay' From NYT 

Newspaper icon Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger, pictured, former New York Times publisher and First Amendment advocate, died over the weekend at age 86 and he's being lauded for his many accomplishments running the paper and maintaining high journalistic standards emulated in many quarters.

However, I've not seen mention of his strong dislike of homosexuals so I got out my copy of "The Trust", a history of the family that owns the Gray Lady written by Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones, to reread the passages about Punch's problems with the queers. Thank goodness the paper finally shed its blatant homophobia under Arthur Sulzberger Jr!

Here are the four most pertinent passages in PDF format and transcribed as text.

[W]hen a front-page story on homosexual cruises had appeared in the travel section in 1975, [executive editor Abe] Rosenthal had been apoplectic. The piece referred to homosexuals as "gays," a word that Rosenthal decreed could be used thereafter only if it was in the name of an organization or within quotes. The story had gone well beyond the mention of the g word. Freelance writer Cliff Jahr had painted a titillating picture of men in "black cowhide outfits trimmed with chains, zippers and metal studs" and had hinted at wild orgies belowdecks . . . [His mother] Iphigene had called Punch in an outrage to complain about the story and was "rabid on the subject," according to a Times staffer privy to the internal correspondence that crossed Rosenthal's desk at the time. It was Punch, in fact (who awkwardly joked about "queers" and felt uncomfortable viewing such films as "La Cage Aux Folles"), who had ordered Rosenthal to ban the word gay from the paper. [Bolding added.]

[In 1992 Arthur Sulzberger Jr launched the Sunday Styles section with "The Arm Fetish" as the cover story. It was widely derided and downtown gays were tickled pink because they linked it to fist-fucking.]

Because of his discomfort with "queers" and "dykes" nothing could have offended Punch more -- except perhaps the parody of Styles that appeared several weeks later in The Village Voice, which featured a photograph of an aroused hunk in his underwear under the headline THE PENIS FETISH.

While Arthur Jr had been out of town [in May 1994], Punch had read in The New York Observer that the Times' contract with the Newspaper Guild, ratified only days earlier, provided health insurance and other benefits for same-sex couples. "Domestic partners" benefits, the first ever offered by a New York daily, fulfilled a promise Arthur Jr had made two years earlier to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. But to Punch it was a distasteful surprise. Despite the fact that he had been briefed numerous times on the Guild contract, he could not recall ever having been told about the provision. Arthur Jr certainly hadn't mentioned it, because he was certain that if he had conscientiously circled the language in red, his father would have vetoed it.

Although the publisher [Arthur Jr] and the company president [Lance Primis] had differing recollections of who told whom what, they both knew that nothing infuriated Punch more than being surprised, especially by subordinates, especially on issues concerning homosexuality.

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