The Daily Agenda for Monday, February 11
February 11th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Newspapers Pull “Doonesbury” Over Gay Character: 1976. Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury, which had been in syndication for little over five years, had gained a reputation for taking on a host of controversial subjects: sex, drugs, the Vietnam War, race, women’s lib, Watergate, you name it. In 1975, Trudeau won a Pulitzer for Editorial Cartooning, making Doonesbury the first regular comic strip to be so honored. Trudeau was, you might say, the Jon Stewart of his day. President Gerald Ford, who was often skewered in Doonesbury, remarked, “There are only three major vehicles to keep us informed as to what is going on in Washington—the electronic media, the print media and Doonesbury, and not necessarily in that order.” On February 9, 1976, Time magazine put the cast of Doonesbury on its front cover, and noting, “The panels are so volatile that half a dozen editors regularly run the strip on the editorial page.”
As if to prove that volatility, newspaper editors across the country were confronted with what to do with that day’s latest Donnesbury installment. The strip for that day was, by today’s standards, pretty innocuous: a simple conversation between Walden College law student Joanie Caucus and classmate Andy Lippincott, with whom Joanie has developed a crush. Andy sits down with her and explains the situation: he’s gay. That panel sent dozens of newspaper editors over the cliff. At least three major newspapers — The Columbus (Ohio) Citizen-Journal, The Cleveland Press and The Houston Post – and an unknown number of smaller ones suspended the strip. Thomas Boardmen of The Cleveland Press tried to put a thoughtful, but ultimately self-contradictory spin on their decision: “The subject of homosexuality is one of the most important issues facing our society today and it deserves special treatment. We are not shying away from it but we do not believe that it is proper for the comic page.”
Charles Egger, editor of the Citizen-Journal said simply, “We felt the subject matter was not appropriate for the comic page.” After the Citizen-Journal’s switchboard was flooded with thousands of complaints, it offered to mail copies of the deleted strip to those who requested it. In Houston, The Post editors also called the strip “inappropriate on a comic page,” but a local radio station responded by reading it over the air, as did member of the Gay Activist Alliance at the University of Houston when anyone called their office number. “We’ve been getting about 50 calls a day,” said an unnamed GAA spokesman. All three papers resumed publishing the strip by the following Monday.
Tammy Baldwin: 1962. Her political career began in 1986 when she won a seat to the Dane County (Madison, Wisconsin) Board of Supervisors. In 1992, she won a a race for the Wisconsin State Assembly by defeating two other candidates while garnering 59% of the vote. She was one of only six openly gay politicians nationwide to win a general election that year, and she was the first openly lesbian Assembly member. When Congressman Scott Klug announced his retirement in 1998, Baldwin ran for that seat and won, making her the first woman to be sent to Congress from Wisconsin, and the first person to enter Congress as an openly gay representative. She would go on to represent the 2nd District for seven terms. This year, she became the first openly gay Senator when she defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?