STRAIGHT-WASHED: Ken Burns Ignore FDR’s Anti-Gay Navy Scandal, Eleanor and ‘Lesbians’ Avoided in ‘The Roosevelts’
The ever awesome and straight (gayly) to the point Michelangelo Signorile of Sirius XM and Huffington Post has some serious and truthful issues with Ken Burns’ negligence of any gay or lesbian mentions in Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s lives in his epic, 14-hour PBS documentary series The Roosevelts:
How could we not hear about the scandalous anti-gay witch hunt beginning in 1919 in Newport overseen by then assistant secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt? As detailed in historian John Loughery’s 1998 book The Other Side of Silence, Navy sailors were recruited to entrap other men to have sex with them, with the undercover “operatives” engaging in sex to orgasmic completion — oral, and yes, some anal — with the men they entrapped, and logging all of this in their own reports.
And what about the bi-erasure of his right-hand man, Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles?
“He was FDR’s school chum — and page boy at Eleanor and FDR’s wedding — and he was also bisexual and quite sexually active, something about which FDR apparently looked the other way. Eventually, though, Roosevelt reluctantly accepted his resignation in 1937 after one of Welles’s rivals in the state department seized upon information that Welles had sex with two black men, Pullman porters on the same train that carried the president from the House Speaker’s funeral in Alabama, and threatened to provide the details to a GOP Senate enemy unless Roosevelt dumped him.”
And during a recent discussion in Chicago Burns himself dismissed the mention of Eleanor’s “close” friends as too “tabloid”
“Burns treats all of this is to discuss Eleanor and Hickok as close and intimate “friends” — he has Doris Kearns Goodwin telling us Hickok was “in love” with Eleanor, almost as if it was one-sided — but never using the “L” word, or even raising the possibility of sex, seeming to view that as sleazy…”
I myself could argue that Eleanor’s rumored lesbian relationships may be debatable. But what is not debatable was the anti-gay navy witch-hunts and not including them in the 14 hour series was a huge mistake. That was real documented history that would be critical to later civil rights struggles and also speaks to FDR’s character and not including it speaks volume of Ken Burns character as well.