Ingraham '85 renounces intolerance

by Maura Henninger | 5/8/97 5:00am

MSNBC and CBS Commentator Laura Ingraham '85, the former editor of The Dartmouth Review and an outspoken critic of homosexuals, recently renounced her intolerance of gays in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

In the column she told the story of her brother's struggle with his partner's AIDS-related illness.

During her tenure at the Review, Ingraham was well-known for her opposition to homosexuality. At one point, she sent an undercover reporter to a meeting of the Gay Students Association and then printed, in the next issue of the Review, a transcript of the meeting with the names of the student officers.

The Dartmouth Review is an off-campus, conservative weekly.

In a Feb. 23 column in the Post, titled, "Test of Devotion: What My Gay Brother Taught Me About Tolerance," Ingraham apologized for her intolerance of gays. Her apology has generated massive attention, from Washington, D.C. to Hanover.

Ingraham did not respond to several requests for an interview with the Dartmouth.

The impetus for Ingraham's apology was a conversation at the MTV Inaugural Ball in Washington D.C., with U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.), and his partner Herb Moses, who is a 1990 graduate of the Tuck School of Business.

The conversation began when Ingraham introduced herself, and Moses condemn her actions as editor of the Review, Frank said.

"She never admitted that her actions were wrong or that she was sorry," Frank said in a recent telephone interview with The Dartmouth. Herb Moses was telling her how traumatic it had been, but she didn't back down."

Moses explained, "Sometimes I feel myself getting physically angry about things, and I think Laura was taken aback by my reaction. But that someone can be personally nice to gays and then go out and promote things to the contrary seems to me inexcusable."

Moses' anger stemmed from his years at Tuck, when, he said, the gay community was still suffering from the ill effects of Ingraham's actions at the Review.

Ingraham characterized the conversation somewhat differently in her Post piece. She described being attacked by Frank with various epithets. Frank, she wrote, was apparently angered by certain events occurring during her Review tenure, which had recently been in the news.

In the piece, she said the Review story printed names of students whose sexual orientation were already known.

"I tried to explain the context of the Dartmouth Review to Frank, and asked him whether he judged other acquaintances on their deeds and misdeeds during college," she said. "He didn't answer."

According to Ingraham, it was at this point in the conversation that she brought up her gay brother, Curtis, whom she had recently helped through the AIDS-related illness of his partner.

Watching her brother and his partner lead their lives with dignity, she wrote, made her realize how her actions at the Review had the ability to hurt others and how it undermined them politically.

Frank and Moses wrote a letter of response to the Washington Post raising two points. First, that Ingraham's characterization of their conversation was misleading since the conversation had been with both Moses and Frank, while her piece only mentioned Frank. Second, both Frank and Moses were confused by her sudden change of view.

English Professor Emeritus Jeffrey Hart, a member of the Review's board, said Ingraham's renunciation

is just career-building.

"She wants to make teams with people who might disagree with her. By calling for increased funding for AIDS, she neglected to consider that people die of other things and that AIDS-related causes are probably over-funded, per capita, as it is."

Hart said he cannot believe her apology is genuine, because while she was at the Review, Ingraham was so hostile to homosexuals in conversations and actions.

Because Ingraham needlessly brought the Review into her piece, Hart says he will never speak with her again. Since she was willing to use to Review to further her political goals, Hart said, he wants to send her a bill for 20 percent of her earnings.

"It seems to me that she really overshot the mark with her Post thing. She could have put it a little differently, that she had learned a little something from her brother that made a big difference to her of some sort. To go on and on, especially about the Review, wasn't even convincing," Hart said.

Moses and Frank said they were not in the position to judge her motives for writing the Post piece.

"I have to assume that her emotions were genuine. I have to assume that her coming out for increased funding for AIDS, the red meat of the Right, is genuine. To damage her credentials with the Right, I don't see how that could be a career-booster," Moses said.

Pundit Dinesh D'Souza '83, who was editor of the Review before Ingraham, declined to analyze Ingraham's motives for writing the apology.

"My feeling is that we should take people at their word. That's how I read the article," D'Souza said.

Ingraham's other former colleagues at the Review have had strong reactions to the Post piece.

Her former co-editor at the Review, Debbie Stone '87, clarified that the agenda of the Review regarding gay students has always been that it's inappropriate and unfair for funds to go to a gay students' association.

"Laura's piece was controversial because the apology was made inappropriately. Our actions at the Review were entirely legitimate. A personal apology is her business," Stone said. "Those of us affiliated with the Review feel that she was unfairly offering an apology for all of us."

Time Magazine columnist Margaret Carlson addressed the significance of Ingraham's piece in a recent column. She wrote that although there are people who change their views based on a personal incident, Ingraham should have found a way to learn about the issues surrounding AIDS without it happening "in her own backyard."