Jesse Helms's Other Kind of Bigotry

Jesse Walker's column today said much of what needed to be said about the late Jesse Helms. I've been frustrated, though, that so much post-mortem discussion of Helms has honed in on his racial hang-ups and the 1990 "Hands" ad, and so little has focused on his bilous homophobia. The dirtiest Helms campaign, after all, was not the 1990 campaign against Harvey Gantt. It was his 1984 comeback victory against then-Gov. Jim Hunt.

Before the campaign began, Helms trailed Hunt by more than 20 points in the polls. Hunt's favorable ratings were in the 70s; Helms's were in the 40s. The Helms strategy was to drive down Hunt's numbers by morphing him from a good 'ol boy into a tool of black radicals and gays, and possibly a closeted, "prissy" gay man himself. The attacks on black voters made the latter anti-Gantt stuff look genteel. From William Link's 2008 bio Righteous Warrior:

In their ads, the Helms campaign found the "darkest, most threatening pictures of [Jesse] Jackson in order to demonize him politically. Hunt, the ads suggested, was leading a massive drive on the part of African Americans to seek political power. In a radio ad, civil rights leader Julian Bond was described as the head of a fictitious "Black Pac" and a Hunt supporter.

The anti-gay angle of the campaign was meaner still. Let's remember what "gay rights" meant in 1984. Gay marriage wasn't on the table, nor was gay adoption, or anything you could designate as "special rights." Helms favored legislation that criminalized gay sex. He attempted to override a 1981 Washington, D.C. law that legalized it. This was what Helms was attacking when he cudgled Jim Hunt, repeatedly, for taking money from gay groups. The Helms campaign bought blocks of ads in a local tabloid called The Landmark, funding a steady campaign of claims that Hunt had made common cause with the "faggots, perverts, sexual deviates of this nation." Still, too subtle. The Landmark hit paydirt when it bolstered a whisper campaign in the state about Hunt's own sexuality. From Link, again:

In an article written by editor Bob Windsor entitled "Jim Hunt is Sissy, Prissy, Girlish and Effeminate," the publication made the outrageous claim that Hunt, while a student at N.C. State, had a "pretty young boy" as a lover... Windsor had merely "printed rumors," he said, and admitted that he could not verify whether the charges that Hunt was gay were the "truth or factual in any way." Windsor compared the story to Hunt's unsubstantiated assertions about El Salvador that had labeled Jesse Helms "a murderer by proxy." "I never accused Hunt of being a fag," he said.

I can understand the argument for the "Hands" ad: Gantt, after all, had benefitted from racial preferences on a mid-80s business deal. I'd love to hear the conservative or libertarian case for letting your political foe be smeared as a "fag." (And it's not like this type of smear stopped in 1984.)

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  • shecky||

    But... but... he hated commies.

  • ||

    Pure class.

  • Naga Sadow||

    A bigot is a bigot! I have spoken.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Art P.O.G.,

    With Jesse, it was a new low every election year. Almost entertaining in a way.

  • ||

    Until proven otherwise, I assume all people from North Carolina are scumbags. They voted Helms in over and over again.

  • SIV||

    I'd love to hear the conservative or libertarian case for letting your political foe be smeared as a "fag."

    You are absolutely right Dweigel. Only liberals,lefties and democrats can engage in fag-bashing politics. What is so special about conservatives and libertarians?

    WTF? This is politics, when were dirty tricks and spurious smears taken off the table?

  • ||

    Art-P.O.G.,

    Pure class.

    Feministing Contributors:

    I would like to ask you to re-think using the word "Classy" in using sarcasm to insult entities such as Fox News. While fox news sucks, those of working class backgrounds do not. Classism is, after all, one of the isms, and as feminists, we should strive to subvert class as an oppressive form of power.

    Thanks,
    Linzey

    Posted by: linzeyinfynity | July 6, 2008 6:28 PM

  • emmajane||

    Thanks, Dave. That needed to be said. And that said, please remember that NC also elected Terry Sanford as their other NC senator--as opposite from Jesse Helms as you could get back then. What I (having grown up in NC) concluded long ago is that NC is way more complicated that people want to think. Sort of like Virginia electing Doug Wilder.

  • Ashley||

    Before the campaign began, Helms trailed Hunt by more than 20 points in the polls. Hunt's favorable ratings were in the 70s; Helms's were in the 40s…

    If intimations of "nigger-lover" and "crypto-faggot" are all it really takes to turn around those numbers then it's less an indictment of Helms than of his constituency. There will always be horrible persons running for office. They will continue to win elections as long as their electorate comes in matching sets.

  • ||

    Sugarfree,

    Holy crap! Thank you for showing me that. Not because I feel guilty now, but because I'm literally astounded at the amount of political correctness in that bloggers' words.

  • testing||

    testing

  • ||

    Yeah, well Jim Hunt never denied he matriculated at NC State. And I'll just bet his wife was a thespian too.

  • ||

    I would like to remind linzeyinfinity that the negative connotations involved with the descriptor "sucks" implies prejudice toward those who enjoy and engage in oral sex.

  • ||

    I'm literally astounded at the amount of political correctness in that bloggers' words.

    My favorite part is where she completely ignores the fact that feminism is an ism too.

  • ||

    And vacuums, black holes, whirlpools, etc.

  • dhex||

    jesse helms is dead
    UNDEAD UNDEAD UNDEAD

    (someone hadda do it)

  • ||

    prejudice toward those who enjoy and engage in oral sex

    Smacks of homophobia.

  • ||

    My favorite part is where she completely ignores the fact that feminism is an ism too

    Oh, snap!

  • ||

    Smacks of homophobia.

    Maybe if we incorporated "this licks" or "this eats" we'd be fine. :) Or "this engages in missionary"?

  • Tom Walls||

    As a (half-)Greek bastard myself, I am disturbed to learn that Jesse is reported to have played the ethnicity card against onetime opponent Nick Galifianakis (not to be confused with his eponymous nephew / Washington Post cartoonist).

    His slogan in that campaign was "Vote for Helms - He's One of Us!"

  • ||

    Art-P.O.G.,

    The day they had a very long discussion on whether or not "douchebag" is a feminist-correct insult will always be a treasured moment in my life. The site is massively fucked-up right now, so I can't seem to find it in their archives.

  • Bearded Beavis||

    Wasn't he just as much a bigot when he was alive? Where were these posts then? I agree with the content of both posts but bashing the recently deceased is just rude. And piling on to another's bashing of the recently deceased is just pathetic.

  • ||

    Bearded Beavis,

    We're not bashing him. This is our way of mourning. Like a wake.

    Sugarfree,

    Clearly, the Feminist Internet Nerd is a type that needs to be hyperlinked for posterity. I will say, truthfully, I'll read four posts in a row on that site that make sense, and the fifth will be the sort of classic that you link to.

  • ||

    Wasn't he just as much a bigot when he was alive? Where were these posts then?

    When he was making news, H&R wasn't around. We can't go after every almost dead bigot ex-senator/congressman out there daily.

  • Episiarch||

    The day they had a very long discussion on whether or not "douchebag" is a feminist-correct insult will always be a treasured moment in my life.

    I wish I had your spare time.

  • Elemenope||

    Wasn't he just as much a bigot when he was alive? Where were these posts then? I agree with the content of both posts but bashing the recently deceased is just rude.

    Well, Jesse Special-Helmet had graciously lapsed into almost-insignificance, until he rudely died on our nation's birthday, thus enticing an avalanche of conservative hagiographies that practically demand to be countered Hitchens-Style.

    If you had asked me on any day before he died, I'd have gladly piled-on for you. The guy was a pussy pox-mark on our body-politic, I'm not shy to say either then or now. What is nauseating is how many in the mainstream conveniently forget how hateful he really was because they are desperate to squeeze significance out of the fact that he managed to die on a day that some attach some importance to.

  • ||

    I'd love to hear the conservative or libertarian case for letting your political foe be smeared as a "fag."

    Umm, liberals do this too. I remember a certain governor from a Blue state who had to step down when he was outed.

    Both parties do it because it works, in all but the most liberal districts. Not saying it is right, just that that's reality.

    Here is Hawaii, of course, we have an openly transgendered member of the statewide school board, so hopefully eventually this will quit being a campaign issue in most of the country, and we can get back to things that really matter -- like flag burning.

  • ||

    Ugh. Close tags. Preview.

    Smacks head.

  • ||

    I just use the time I have efficiently. And I have a long memory for stupid things. I got that from my mother, who has thrown the fact that I bit my grandmother when I was three in my face at least twice a year for the last 34 years.

  • ||

    Wow, Bob Windsor and the Landmark. Does that bring back memories. I worked on the production crew for that rag, it was a contract job at the printing plant where I worked: Chapel Hill Publishing, owned by Orville B. Campbell, best remembered as the basis for the town drunk character "Otis B Campbell" on The Andy Griffith Show.

    If the Landmark had more than 20 readers, I'd be surprised. It was a vanity publication and I don't think the press run ever topped 5k copies. The fact that anyone thought it influential is, well, laughable. Windsor's primary bugaboo was the Dean Dome construction project at UNC-Chapel Hill, which he claimed was being funded by some cabal of ultra-rich property developers including Walter Davis (no, not that one, the other one) just so they could have all the courtside seats.

    What killed Hunt in '84 was Carter Wrenn's devastating series of negative ads - not only the race-baiting, but those spotlighting Hunt's long history of "tax and spend" government.

    You can blast Helms all you want for racism and homophobia and you'd be on solid ground, but thinking that Bob Windsor had any effect on the election is really silly. After all, Windsor was the kind of guy who wore bib overalls and brogan shoes everywhere he went to cultivate his image. What he really needed was a clown wig.

  • ||

    Umm, liberals do this too. I remember a certain governor from a Blue state who had to step down when he was outed.

    Dude, if you mean McGreevey, you totally missed the point of scandal. He outed himself so he could play the victim card. He named his boy toy (that couldn't get security clearance) as homeland security head and then later filed a sexual harassment suit. The fact that there were tons of scandals in his administration made it worse.

    It would be as if Bill Clinton appointed Monica Lewinski as DCI.

  • ||

    Dave Weigel,

    Didn't you use a link in your very last Politics-and-Prog to strongly imply that recently-engaged Florida Governor Charlie Crist is actually a closeted gay man?

    Aren't you being a little hypocritical?

  • ||

    Right, Mo. McCreevey's homosexuality was almost incidental to the fact that he was caught up in a bunch of sheisty maneuvers.

  • ||

    SugarFree-Pretty sure that was a troll.

  • ||

    Which one, Shem?

  • Episiarch||

    I think he means me, NutraSweet.

  • ||

    Well, then he's right. Good call, Shem!

  • ||

    Just kidding, Epi. You're like the brother I kicked my mother in the stomach to keep from having.

  • ||

    There is no Libertarian argument for Jesse Helms. But there was never any Libertarian argument for his opponents either. From a political standpoint, Helms was scum. But so was Harvey Gant. The fact that Helms personally didn't like blacks or gays seems pretty far down the list of true Libertarian grievances, and the fact that some of his authoritarian socialist opponents may have liked blacks or gays doesn't make them any more appealing in my eyes. I vote principle, so I'd never have voted for Helms, but if I were a lesser of two evil sort of of Libertarian, I'd probably have voted for the guy quite a few times. At least he hated taxes and wanted out of the UN. That's more than his opponents ever wanted, and its not like Helm's oddball views on homosexuality and race had any reasonable chance of being enacted anyway. To their credit (and unlike the Dems) the GOP embraced the segregationists themselves but only on the condition they leave their segregationist policies at home. Helm's black hand ad may offend the OLM's delicate sensibilities, but the position it represented was the correct one from a libertarian standpoint.

  • ||

    Helms was an asshole, no too ways about it. Shame on everyone who ever voted for him.

    -jcr

  • Rhywun||

    McCreevey's homosexuality was almost incidental to the fact that he was caught up in a bunch of sheisty maneuvers.



    The fact that he had a wife at the time might have had something to do with it, too.

  • ||

    Damn it, I hate it when I spot the typo just as I'm hitting the "submit comment" button. Change "too" to "two" above.

    -jcr

  • ||

    The fact that he had a wife at the time might have had something to do with it, too.

    I had sympathy for him (the sham marriage being a political convenience, a "beard"), but his general dishonesty in the effort to get his (foreign?)* lover a job (when he couldn't get a security clearance?), the sexual impropriety and all that was just embarrassing.

    *I'm not foreigner-phobic it just sounded like the guy was a foreign national. I was never even quite sure whether he could even be on state payroll.

  • Rhywun||

    At least he hated taxes



    Makes me wonder if there's any social position that trumps taxes for the truly orthodox.

  • Episiarch||

    Just kidding, Epi. You're like the brother I kicked my mother in the stomach to keep from having.

    It took you 3 minutes to write "just kidding"? I'm hurt.

  • Rhywun||

    His alleged lover (the guy denied the whole thing) was Israeli, without clearance, and therefore ineligible for the post he was given. And for that, he rightly resigned.

    Never mind that, were he not a "gay American", and instead cheated on his wife with another woman and got caught -- he'd still have to resign. That's just the way America is. We have this irrational belief that our leaders must be flawless and without sin.

  • ||

    Might as well put the standard "stopped clock" disclaimer on Helms instead of trying for the moral equivalence thing, FDAS.

    Helm's black hand ad may offend the OLM's delicate sensibilities, but the position it represented was the correct one from a libertarian standpoint.

    If you can psychologically reduce it to some sort of binary abstraction instead of, you know, bigotry and propaganda.

  • ||

    Helms had to do the work of ensuring that a small minority of individuals were not able to destroy institutions which did not cater to their deviant lifestyle, deal with it.

    Hating gays is stupid, but so is thinking that their lifestyle should in any way be included into an exclusive thing such as marriage.

  • ||

    That's just the way America is. We have this irrational belief that our leaders must be flawless and without sin.

    Maybe if we just accepted uncomfortable honesty from our leaders (to inoculate us). Guy's campaigning, "Hey, I'm a swinger!" or "Hey, I'm gay!" or whatever. Then it would have to be some really shocking shit to be a scandal.
    Hell, I wouldn't think less of someone if they said they were Atheist or Agnostic or whatever, but I guess a large segment of the population would.
    I guess a divorce is even semi-scandalous. Yeah, we're Puritans.

  • ||

    Three minutes for me, a lifetime for you...

    Anyway,

    McGreevey main sin was marrying a hot wife and removing her from the hetero-pool for 8 years. Shame on you, Jim McGreevey!

  • ||

    Hating gays is stupid, but so is thinking that their lifestyle should in any way be included into an exclusive thing such as marriage.

    I seem to recall Helms trying to ensure the criminalization of buggery, not merely opposing gay marriage. Says so right in the article.

  • ||

    McGreevey main sin was marrying a hot wife and removing her from the hetero-pool for 8 years. Shame on you, Jim McGreevey!

    Yeah, that was selfish. :)

  • Episiarch||

    We have this irrational belief that our leaders must be flawless and without sin.

    Maybe we have a belief that if politicians are going to hector us to do/not do certain things, they should also follow that.

    Before you say "McGreevy never said 'don't cheat on your wife with your gay Israeli lover'", I would like to put out there that there's no way he wouldn't say that if asked about it before he got caught.

    If a politician is all for threesomes with his wife and other guys, or encounters in men's bathrooms, I would appreciate it if they would stand up and say it. I'd support them for it.

  • ||

    Maybe McGreevey's wife had some clues, though.

    Wife: I'm sleeping with the mailman, Jim!
    McG: [seemingly unaffected]Did you use protection?
    Wife: I...what?
    McG: Be safe out there, OK?

    ;)

  • Episiarch||

    McGreevey (sic) main sin was marrying a hot wife and removing her from the hetero-pool for 8 years. Shame on you, Jim McGreevey!

    You really are a cougar-hound, aren't you. What, you need the older ladies to show you where to put it? Reminds you of your mom?

  • ||

    I see we're of similar mindsets, Epi.

  • Episiarch||

    Well then maybe you could insult NutraSweet too, Art. There's never enough of that, I say.

  • ||

    Not that last part, but about politicians' forthcomingness.*

    *Older ladies are hot, though. I tend to hew closer to my age, however.

  • ||

    chukmaty,

    Opposing gay marriage is a hatred of gays. If you don't hate gays, then why can't they marry? Is it because your own marriage couldn't survive if you knew you could have a fat boy's juicy ass all for yourself in a marital bed? Is it that the two-groom cake turns you on?

  • ||

    I'm no good with the insults! I got picked on too much as a kid.*

    *This is an admission that I'm something of a wuss. I had to get all these tattoos and grow a mustache so hopefully no one would think that.

  • Rhywun||

    Hating gays is stupid, but so is thinking that their lifestyle should in any way be included into an exclusive thing such as marriage.



    I can't even parse that.

  • ||

    Damn, Sugarfree, that shit was funny.

  • ||

    Hmm, no Gay Chubby Dating ad yet, though.

  • Episiarch||

    I'm no good with the insults! I got picked on too much as a kid

    You can provide cover for me because NutraSweet will strike at you as an easy target, giving me more time to imply that NutraSweet humps his mommy. So please, give it your worst shot.

  • Rhywun||

    there's no way he wouldn't say that if asked about it before he got caught



    Of course not. My contention that a person's bedroom life has no bearing on his fitness for office. If McGreevey had "merely" cheated on his wife (without the whole giving a post to his lover scandal), he should not have been expected to resign, but he would have. I don't require a pre-nuptial agreement from my leaders, promising to stay faithful to their spouses.

  • Episiarch||

    Hating gays is stupid, but so is thinking that their lifestyle should in any way be included into an exclusive thing such as marriage.

    I can't even parse that.


    That's because it doesn't make sense.

  • ||

    So please, give it your worst shot.

    It occurs to me that if I were any good at this repartee, I'd be doing stand-up comedy and improv. Alas, through the internet I can hide my stuttering and blank stares!*

    *I'm supposed to be attacking Sugarfree, huh?

  • ||

    Art,

    Just mumble something about my mom. Epi's coasted on that weak shit for months now.

  • Episiarch||

    16 minutes and that's the best you come up with? What, is your mom over right now and you had to take a 2-minute break plus a 14-minute shower to get the odor off?

  • ||

    [chortles]

  • Rhywun||

    That's because it doesn't make sense.



    Good, it's not just me.

  • dhex||

    My contention that a person's bedroom life has no bearing on his fitness for office.

    i'm with you on this, but there's the extension that they aren't holding tryouts for major government offices in said bedroom as well.

    nepotism + thinking with your dick = even worse than usual.

  • ||

    Your mom's so old, she's made of hydrogen and helium because the heavier elements hadn't yet been forged in the hearts of stars.

  • ||

    Good night, folks! I'll be here all week!

  • Episiarch||

    OK, Art, I accept your contention that you are not good at insults.

  • ||

    Yeah, but that was supposed to be intentionally bad.*

    *Or was it?

  • ||

    Using some issue merely as a beard for racial appeals doesn't launder the underlying racism.

  • ||

    Using some issue merely as a beard for racial appeals doesn't launder the underlying racism.

    I would say this truism has bi-or-multiple-partisan applications, but I'm not going to deflect from how base Helms' campaign was with its racial appeals.
    Helms managed to damage his opponents in the short term and whatever decent appeals he might have used in the long term.

  • ||

    By 'decent' appeals, I mean whatever 'libertarian' causes he might have championed because the taint of his bigotry clouded them.

  • ||

    But I guess Uncle Ruckus would like Sen. Helms.

  • ||

    Epi,

    Stop flailing away. All you have is time insults? Jeez, Artie's doing better than that.

    Extra points for joe weaving the Helms and McGreevey comments into a single post.

  • Brian||

    Using the same logic as the columnist we can assume that Obama is a big supporter of NAMBLA

  • ||

    Brian, I don't follow.

  • ||

    Bigotry against homosexuals was worst than bigotry against blacks? No wonder gays are seen as narcissistic!

  • ||

    Just kidding, Epi. You're like the brother I kicked my mother in the stomach to keep from having.

    Wow, you guys should take the act on the road.

    For the record, I was talking about the "classy" chick. It's too over-the-top for it not to ping my troll alarm.

  • ||

    I voted for Helms four times and I was proud to do so. He gummed up the work of the Senate by reading each bill that came thru and causing debate on every bill. I am sorry to see him go.

  • No Name Guy||

    Jesse Helms was a senile, racist buffoon and a sad relic of another era. Can the world not even agree on this simple statement?

    For God's sake, do northerners defend, say, Boss Tweed for the sake of some strange notion of regional pride?

  • ||

    Today's WSJ opinion page (Best of the Web feature) has in interesting letter from Jesse Helms concerning what he wants to do to the negros:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121553530992936157.html?mod=Best+of+the+Web+Today

    Not sure how he felt about gay negros.

  • No Name Guy||

    How about gay, illegal immigrant negroes?

  • ||

    bbs,

    I like how one unsigned letter sent by the Helms Center somehow makes Helms far more nuanced than previously thought. I'd like to see something in the public record or signed before I reconsider things.

  • ||

    Mo, agreed. I just found the apparent (unsubstantiated) contrast interesting.

    NNG, in the Helmsville we know, the only thing worse than a gay, illegal immigrant negro is an AIDS-infected, drug-using, atheist, gay, illegal immigrant negro. Now that would be really scary. Toss in some communism and things get ugly fast.

  • ||

    I'd love to hear the conservative or libertarian case for letting your political foe be smeared as a "fag."

  • ||

    The previous post should have included this:

    Uh, free speech?

  • No Name Guy||

    You are free to call your opponent a fag, a n*****r, or any other manner of ugly thin.

    I'm also free to call you a racist, senile buffoon right back.

  • J sub D||

    ...AIDS-infected, drug-using, atheist, gay, illegal immigrant negro.

    With a pool greater than 300 million, we can find one at least.

    Is this a great country or what?

  • Elemenope||

    With a pool greater than 300 million, we can find one at least.

    But sadly, he's a rightist. For a commie, one must go to Europe.

  • ||

    Shem,

    For the record, I was talking about the "classy" chick. It's too over-the-top for it not to ping my troll alarm.

    Oh, how I wish you were right. They quickly ban people with dry senses of humor, so trolls usually die in their cribs. The moderators constantly spar with anyone who disagrees or doesn't toe the line. By not doing it, it can only be assumed they agree with the sentiment, or, at least, don't disagree with it enough to comment on it (which they do constantly.) It's a low threshold.

    I wasn't kidding about the day-long douchebag debate. But it was on Pandagon.

  • bubba||

    I thought the current emphasis was on Helms's racism because he had repented of his homophobia and supported AIDS research.

  • ||

    remember Channon Christian (channonchristian.com)

  • ||

    Hi Lamar! I'm from North Carolina, and until proven otherwise, i assume you're a dumbass.

  • bill||

    I (not so fondly) remember Helms "editorials" for Channel 5 in Raleigh during my college years. What a sleaze, even way back then - some things never change. He accused the NC State students (after a panty raid) of being "commies" like those lost souls in Chapel Hill.

  • ||

    "Windsor's primary bugaboo was the Dean Dome construction project at UNC-Chapel Hill, which he claimed was being funded by some cabal of ultra-rich property developers including Walter Davis (no, not that one, the other one) just so they could have all the courtside seats."

    Well replace "property developers" with "alumni" (or combine the two)and you've pretty much described the Smith Center. Still a great venue though.

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