On this day in 1956, WRCA-TV (now WNBC) aired an award-winning weekly panel discussion program called “The Open Mind”. The program, hosted by Richard Heffner, was not only well ahead of its time when it first went on the air in May 1956, it is still an acclaimed syndicated program on American Public Television,
Heffner and The Open Mind hosted the first televised discussion on the East Coast on homosexuality. The Daughters of Bilitis’s magazine The Ladder featured a review of the program by Sten Russell (real name: Stella Rush).
Despite the misinformation and prejudices, the show was as even handed as it possibly could have been at the time which outraged the New York Archdioceses of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Francis Spellman started a war with the station and threatened to go to the FCC to have the NBC affiliate’s broadcasting license revoked.
That didn’t stop Heffner or WRCA. They scheduled another program on homosexuality just two months later which was followed by another in January. The episodes covered topics including whether homosexuality should be treated as a criminal or a medical matter, nature vs. nurture as the cause of homosexuality and how society indoctrinates young people into gender roles
Unfortunately no surviving tape of this episode still exists just this one still shot below.