Let me begin by thanking Washington City Paper for publishing a story about NationalGayLobby.Org’s call for a boycott of this year’s Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) House Tour (“This Old Boycott,” 8/4). Unfortunately, the story contained numerous factual errors and misquotes, some of which I’d like to correct.
First of all, our organization name is NationalGayLobby.Org, not National Gay Lobby. This may be a small point to many, but we think it is rather important. After all, if a reporter can’t get his or her subject’s name correct, there is reason for readers to question the accuracy of other information.
The following are just a few examples of factual errors and misstatements contained in Holly Bailey’s story.
In the second paragraph, referring to the DCCA House Tour, appears the statement, “Michael Romanello has one word for that tour: homophobic.” This Michael Romanello never said anything even remotely like that. I, and a great many other people, believe some DCCA leaders to be homophobic. I do not think the DCCA’s house tour—or every DCCA member—is homophobic. That would be ridiculous.
In the very next paragraph, your reporter goes on to say, “It’s not that Romanello, the executive director of an Arlington-based group called National Gay Lobby [sic] (NGL),
has overheard any secret anti-gay code words…”
Bailey never asked me if I had heard such code words. Had she, I would have answered affirmatively. In doing so, I would have said that when I hear, or hear of, heterosexual community leaders with a history of spearheading opposition to gay businesses using words like “those people are taking over 17th Street,” I do indeed consider them to be code words meaning “The fags are taking over 17th Street.”
Had your reporter, as I suggested, read through a two-part series on the DCCA I authored, which appeared in the October and November 1997 issues of the InTowner, she would have found the following passages:
“Asked if she believed that homophobia or anti-gay sentiment influences DCCA actions, [former DCCA board member Irene] Iskander, who is not gay, said, ‘There has been a little problem of attitude toward the gay community. About sixty percent of our board is gay, so this is not a big deal to most people, but there was a tenor…it’s something you just feel.’
“‘I hear [code words] all of the time, as a Latino and because some of my friends are black,’ acknowledged (former ANC-2B Chair Henry) Fernandez. ‘It’s, “Oh, you people,” or “those people,” you know?’…When pressed for a specific instance, Fernandez added, ‘In November of ’96, Marilyn Groves said to me that the High Heel Race does not belong on 17th Street. She said that in front of me and the general council of the Control Board. I think her words were “you people” cannot have this race on 17th Street.’
“And there was this, a former assistant to the President of the United States ‘reports overhearing a woman make remarks at a party in late 1995 or early 1996 that convinced him that she was homophobic. According to this source, referring to the gay community and 17th Street during a conversation about J.R.’s patio application, the woman said, “Those people won’t stop. They want to turn it into a gay street.” When the source later pointed the speaker out to his host and asked her identity, he was told, “That’s DCCA President Marilyn Groves.”‘”
As I mentioned, all of these quotes appeared in print nearly three years ago. The series in which they appeared was widely read and commented upon. The authenticity of these quotes—or that of any of the numerous other similar statements contained in that series—has never been challenged. It’s a shame Bailey didn’t avail herself of the background material available.
There are two other items of information in Bailey’s story that I cannot let pass without correction. The first is an assertion by DCCA President Frank Hornstein that he tried to contact members of NGL’s board of directors but could not find any phone numbers. Hornstein is well aware that his quoted statement, “I don’t think they exist,” is a lie. Our board members are spread out across the country. Even so, Hornstein managed to contact two local board members by telephone. They did not choose to speak with him, referring him instead to me. The telephone number for a third local board member is also listed. Had Hornstein e-mailed me, or contacted me through our Web site, I would have gladly put our board members in touch with him. He did not do so.
Nor, in fact, did Bailey ask to be put in touch with any NGL board members while researching her story.
The other point I must clarify has to do with the following. In her article, Bailey writes, “Two months ago, Romanello reported on the NGL Web site that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)…had reserved a room at the Mayflower Hotel that had been used as a drug-distribution point during last spring’s Millennium March.” This was followed by a statement by “HRC’s communications director, David Smith,” in which Smith is quoted as saying, “The guy’s a lunatic. He just came out of nowhere with this ludicrous story, and as far as we can tell, he just made it up.”
Bailey did not contact me to verify the accuracy of HRC Senior Strategist Smith’s statement. Had she done so, she would have learned that upon receiving allegations that drug sales had taken place over Millennium March weekend in a Mayflower Hotel room associated with the HRC, I personally contacted Smith by telephone to alert the HRC that potentially damaging allegations were circulating. The allegations were not mine—they were made to me. There is an important difference—a difference Bailey should have established by discussing Smith’s comments with me. Again, she did not do so. Why not, I wonder?
Again, thank you for the story. I only wish it had been a bit more objective and factual.