It was clear by the 5,500-word obituary, which The New York Times posted online within moments of Mayor Koch’s death yesterday, that the paper of record had done its homework well in advance. Or so it would appear: The darkest aspect of Koch’s three terms — his five-year avoidance of the AIDS crisis, at the height of the epidemic — was completely glossed over.
Indeed, the word “AIDS” was written only once and, even then, it was in passing: “…the scandals and the scourges of crack cocaine, homelessness and AIDS.” Furthermore, The New York Times’ twenty-two-minute video tribute neglected to mention the word at all. Outrage over the paper’s scant mention of Koch’s bête noire has since forced the paper to revise Robert D. MacFadden’s lengthy homage to the former mayor.
Koch’s interaction with AIDS activists, specifically Larry Kramer, made headline news and even forced the mayor to respond to allegations that he was a closeted homosexual and a “murderer of his own people.” This conflict between the mayor and ACT UP was a well-known mar on his twelve years in Gracie Mansion, and a skipping over of that fact was a revision of history.
The New York Times responded to the outrage by adding three more paragraphs; however, it should be noted that the following paragraph only added insult to injury:
“Mr. Koch was also harshly criticized for what was called his slow, inadequate response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Hundreds of New Yorkers were desperately ill and dying in a baffling public health emergency. Critics, especially in the gay community, accused him of being a closeted gay man reluctant to confront the crisis for fear of being exposed.”
“Hundreds of New Yorkers…?” As Glittersnipe reported yesterday, the number was closer to 30,000 AIDS victims.