VOLUME 4, ISSUE 3 |Jan 20 – 26, 2005
PERSPECTIVE/ VALUES, GOVERNMENT & THE MEDIA
Family Witch Doctor, Heal Thyself
This past week, the New York Post, in two stories, managed to combine ageism, racism, sexism and family-phobia all under the banner of journalism.
The first story, on Saturday, reported that a bond analyst making $4 million annually at Bank of America was fired. The reason? He put a photo of himself as a bride being carried into a hotel room on the cover of the firm’s annual financial outlook report on hotels and casinos.
The story was reported fairly, but was hardly front-page material. Indeed, I can’t recall the last time the Post covered a workplace discrimination case, especially one based on gender, sexual orientation or identity.
What made this front-page Post newsworthy was the photo itself. In true New York Post hysteria, the full-color photo from the report covered page one. To the Post, a cross-dressing, homophobic joke is always more important than, say, the devastation of the war in Iraq.
The second story published last week is much subtler.
The subject involves two consenting adults. Barbara Klar, a 39-year-old white woman, and Denny Farrell, a 72-year-old African-American man, are not married. They both have good government jobs. They’ve been together for a long time. And they are expecting their first child together.
Fredic Dicker happens to be the Post’s Albany bureau chief. For years he’s filed mostly stories about late budgets. He’s never written about society, social trends, parenting or other lifestyle issues—unless, of course, one counts Dicker’s relentlessly negative coverage of the effort to pass the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in 2002 or any other progressive legislation in Albany.
Dicker filed a story castigating Denny Farrell and Barbara Klar for “sending a terrible message” by having a “love child.” To underscore his sexist and ageist point, Dicker attempted to demean Klar by writing that Farrell is “fathering a love child with his 39-year-old girlfriend.”
Why did Dicker write this article?
For those who don’t follow local politics, the news hook here is the soon-to-be parents are prominent in New York City’s civic affairs. Barbara Klar works in the state’s Division of Human Rights and Denny Farrell is the state assemblyman for central and western Harlem. Farrell is also the chairman of the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, the chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee and the New York County Democratic Leader.
In these positions, Farrell has worked closely with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) New Yorkers, women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, the disabled and many other communities that make up the city’s political world. In other words, Denny Farrell is the type of progressive person that the New York Post loves to hate.
From Fred Dicker’s depiction, one might conclude that Denny and Barbara are breaking up happy homes and endangering children across the state. Dicker’s implied message is that two people of diverse age and ethnicity cannot and should not be parents.
The treatment that Klar and Farrell received from the Post is not very different from the attacks levied for years by homophobic conservatives against the LGBT community—the common threat being the libel that non-traditional, non-heterosexual couples and individuals are not fit to be parents.
But Klar and Farrell want this child. I’ve known Denny for 20 years, and have met his adult children. I think he will be a good father. I think he will be just as good a parent as the gay and lesbian couples I know who have children. Many of our gay and lesbian friends, of course, have proven that they really wanted children, having survived cumbersome adoptions, artificial insemination, nasty custody battles, heck, even opposite-sex intercourse to become parents.
Obviously, Fred Dicker hasn’t left Albany since The Supremes released “Love Child,” late in the Johnson administration. If he had done some basic reporter legwork, he would have found a long history of people raising children singly or with partners. Case in point: Gypsy Rose Lee, whose adopted son later discovered that Lee and the director Otto Preminger were his actual birth parents (in the 1940s, mind you). Ingrid Bergman didn’t hide her love child with Roberto Rossellini, their son Roberto (in the 1950s), though she was punished as a result for some years by Hollywood. Come to think of it, there’s never been a Post editorial condemning the offspring of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.
And last fall, why didn’t Fred Dicker write a damning post-death denunciation of Senator Strom Thurmond, the racist who secretly fathered a daughter with one of his African-American servants some seven decades ago? Didn’t Dicker remember that the late senator also fathered a child when he was in his 70s, just as Farrell is doing now?
But this story goes even beyond Barbara and Denny, Kurt and Goldie, Ingrid Berman and Rosie O’Donnell.
What the Post has long promoted for the pompous right is that any activities between consenting adults outside of a government and/or religion-sanctioned heterosexual union must not be tolerated—with a few exceptions for rich and famous heteros.
Still, Fred Dicker’s story took an interesting turn after it hit print. Last Wednesday, Farrell, New York politician that he is, took this fight to the airwaves—appearing unannounced and uninvited on Dicker’s morning radio show, which is heard only in Albany, but listened to very carefully there.
According to news reports and transcripts, Farrell said, “I just came in to let your radio listeners know what a piece of slime that you are,” and “You’re a bully.”
Also according to those reports, Dicker spewed pure anti-Harlem racism: “You’re an elected official in a community that’s been troubled with out-of-wedlock births,” and “You’re the head of the Democratic Party and you’re acting like some street character.”
Oh yes, I should probably add that Fred Dicker himself lives with another person in a “non-traditional” arrangement. Jean Miller, according to the Daily News, is Dicker’s live-in companion and “a former Pataki administration official.” Dicker defended his domestic life on the airwaves by noting, “I’m not a public official.”
There you have it: Fred Dicker, racist, sexist, ageist. And hypocrite. Just perfect for the homophobic New York Post.