New York Daily NewsAmerica is a work in progress, forever striving to become the more perfect Union promised in its founding document. To that end, we must acknowledge and correct cases where rigid traditions, petty cruelties or base fears have gotten the better of our better angels.
Two weeks hence is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. For six days, fed up with months of unrelenting raids and harassment by the police, gay people in Greenwich Village righteously pushed back.
The equal-rights movement that was sparked there changed our nation, and improved it.
Thursday, Police Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill apologized on behalf of his department, stating unequivocally that “the actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.”
He is not alone. We here at the Daily News played an unhelpful role in helping create a climate that treated the victims as the punchline of jokes, not as dignified individuals with legitimate complaints about mistreatment. For that, we apologize.
We are a tabloid; our coverage has color and energy and attitude. But in using juvenile language to caricature individuals simply because they happened to love people of the same sex, in gratuitously making light of their grievances, we erred.
“Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad,” screamed one notorious headline on July 6, 1969. The text beneath could not contain the writer’s mockery: “She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a humming-bird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day-old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.”
Three years ago, in an editorial titled “Gay rights and our wrongs,” this page cheered the recognition of the Stonewall Inn as a national monument, apologized for our disrespectful words and praised “a revolt now viewed as a milestone in a journey that led last year to same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.”
Onward, and hopefully upward.