Mike Wallace’s Death Brings Back a Notorious CBS Anti-Gay Documentary
Last Saturday the legendary journalist Mike Wallace died at 93. While friends, family, colleagues, and fans celebrate the highlights of the "60 Minutes" reporter’s career, there is one controversial video of a 1967 broadcast that they may not be talking about.
Although Wallace has won at least 20 Emmy Awards, gay rights activists are once again bringing up "The Homosexuals" -- a one-hour documentary that raised eyebrows across a nation still overwhelmingly uninformed about the subject. Most people (including Wallace himself) have long since recognized that the documentary, rather than speaking truth to power (like the classic Edward R. Murrow program about migrant farmworkers) only served to reinforce classic negative stereotypes.
The CBS broadcast, which was hosted by Wallace, was a first for network television, GoPride.com points out. The piece took three years to make and featured openly gay men, gay men who were in the closet, legal experts, and cultural critics.
Gay rights activists have criticized Wallace for the documentary and activist Wayne Besen said the show was "the single most destructive hour of anti-gay propaganda in U.S. history," the website reported.
During the broadcast, which aired before "60 Minutes" was created, Wallace brought up a CBS News poll that found that more Americans said that being gay was more harmful to the U.S. than adultery, abortion or prostitution.
"The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous," Wallace said in the documentary. "He is not interested or capable of a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage. His sex life, his love life, consists of a series of one-chance encounters at the clubs and bars he inhabits. And even on the streets of the city -- the pick-up, the one-night stand, these are characteristics of the homosexual relationship."
The piece also featured the notorious psychiatrist Charles Socarides who said homosexuality was a mental illness, Yahoo reported. Socarides has since been an anathema to his profession as the founding father of "reparative therapy." (Ironically, his son Richard was President Bill Clinton’s advisor on LGBT issues; Socarides was always at a loss to explain how his was "born this way" when he always maintained that an absent father and dominant mother was the "cause" of homosexuality.)
"That is -- God help us -- what our understanding was of the homosexual lifestyle a mere 25 years ago," Wallace said in a 1996 interview. "Because nobody was out of the closet and because that’s what we heard from doctors, that’s what Socarides told us-it was a matter of shame."
The program’s reception was mixed at the time. The New York Times, The Washington Star and the Chicago Daily news all applauded CBS for discussing homosexuality. The Times writer, George Gent, did criticize the broadcasts’ anti-gay bias and said it would "have been better to give the minority viewpoint that homosexuals are just as normal as anyone else a chance to speak for itself." The Chicago Times called its review "TV No Spot to Unload Garbage" and bashed the station for presenting the material to young children.
In 1992 Wallace said he regretted making the piece and his remarks.
"I should have known better," he said.
Watch the video of the documentary below: