By Mab Segrest
This article by gay activist and writer Mab Segrest appeared in Southern Exposure magazine's Fall 1985 issue. It provides a comprehensive look at how the Helms machine used shameful hate mongering against Joe, Lightning Brown, and the rest of North Carolina's gay and lesbian community to eke out Jesse's narrow 1984 re-election.
The inset of the article's second page is a reprint of a story that appeared in The Landmark, a virulently anti-gay publication printed in Chatham County, in June 1984, titled "Faggots Dominate Fourth Congressional District Convention." It was at this convention that Joe was elected as an openly gay Mondale delegate to the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.
Sadly, this article is typical of the scurrilous bile that The Landmark published two or three times a month throughout 1984. It was distributed in regular editions of tens of thousands of free copies all over North Carolina, and its press run increased dramatically in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Every word of this hate-filled propaganda tool passing as a "newspaper" dripped with bigotry and prejudice.
"The faggots worked the crowd like maggots in a manure pile. They had their ducks in a row for the second time and the so-called Gay Rights resolution passed."
- The Landmark, June 7, 1984
The paper's homophobic publisher, Bob Windsor of Chapel Hill, was a cog in the machine of right-wing Helms backers. According to lyndonlarouchewatch.org, Windsor was being used by the political organization of extremist Lyndon LaRouche to spread anti-gay filth around the state and help ensure Helms’ re-election.
Former LaRouche security staffer Charles Tate "says he was told in early 1984 that work would be done on Helms's behalf. This was no surprise to Tate: he knew the security staff had been in touch with a top Helms aide for several years…Security staffers discussed sending an infiltrator into the Hunt campaign, but decided they could do the job best through undercover phone calls."
Posing as reporters for the black and gay press, LaRouche staffers made and taped phone calls to gay activists and civil rights leaders around the country who were backing Hunt. Articles based on distorted excerpts from the phone calls were then published in issues of The Landmark.
"The idea was to show that Hunt was getting substantial local and national support from constituencies disliked by many conservative Democrats…At least some of the tapes used by The Landmark came from LaRouche's security staff.
In early March 1984, a LaRouchian phoned Virginia Apuzzo, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, pretending to be a news reporter. Charles Tate says he heard the call being made and "saw the tape recorder running." A transcript of Apuzzo’s remarks appeared in the March 29 issue of The Landmark, which also included excerpts from a phone conversation with Lightning Brown, a gay activist in Chapel Hill.
Brown says he received two calls. The first was from Grant Duay, a supposed reporter for a gay weekly, the New York City News. Brown said that Duay "asked about my fund raising for Hunt. The details ended up in The Landmark right away—it was frightening." Duay was in fact a notorious LaRouche operative who had previously used the New York City News as his cover for interviewing and taping political opponents of LaRouche. (In 1986 Duay would be arrested in Manhattan as part of a homosexual child pornography ring.)
Brown's second call was from the black LaRouchian. "I told him I felt sorry for the publisher of The Landmark and that I had prayed for him," said Brown, who is a Quaker. "My remark later appeared in The Landmark. It was supposed to prove I was a devil worshipper."
Landmark publisher Windsor was in close contact with the LaRouchians throughout that spring. He accompanied Tom Allred, Hunt's LaRouchian opponent in the Democratic primary, on a trip to Raleigh. "We toured the legislature and I introduced him to Liston Ramsey, speaker of the house, and many other people,” Windsor wrote in a front-page article about Allred.
In a 1987 phone interview Windsor said he had also attended a meeting held to recruit North Carolina conservatives to run on the LaRouche slate, Windsor claimed that a number of his conservative friends had contributed money to the NDPC (National Democratic Policy Committee – one of LaRouche’s national political organizations), including one $50,000 contribution.
Besides running made-up stories that slandered Joe and Lightning in every way possible, including accusations that they had started a Chapel Hill NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association) chapter and were secretly "porno kings," The Landmark also published their home addresses and did everything possible to incite violence against the two of them.
No wonder, as Segrest recounts in her article, that "Brown and Herzenberg were subjected to more than a dozen separate incidents of intimidation, vandalism and harassment…for their work within the Democratic Party."
In a 1984 interview with the Independent Weekly when Joe and Lightning were awarded two of the Indy's first-ever Citizen Awards, Lightning told of how "two people even threatened to kill me on Rosemary Street." Joe called the attacks "very disruptive and at times painful." Asked if he had been scared, he admitted, with a subtlety that testified to his courage, "At moments."
At the time "Anatomy of An Election" was published in Southern Exposure, Mab Segrest served as coordinator of North Carolinians Against Racist and Religious Violence. Earlier versions of her article appeared in Gay Community News and The Front Page.