The June 22 premiere episode of Viewfinder will explore gay rights in America
Each episode will explore a new topic, from women’s rights in India to being a transgender teen in the U.S., and the first return episode is titled “Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays” which investigates gay rights in the U.S. as told through the eyes of Charles Francis, the former leader of a group of gay Republicans known as the Austin 12. The episodes feature reporting from Yahoo’s editorial team, including chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff, so we asked him what to expect with the June 22 episode.
Out: What were your experiences like while investigating for the first returning Viewfinder episode, “Uniquely Nasty: US Government War on Gays”? Were there any difficulties with your research/investigation?
Michael Isikoff: This was quite the fascinating experience. The film centers on Charles Francis, once a close friend of George W. Bush, who served as his emissary to the gay community in the 2000 campaign and then grew disillusioned in 2004 when the Bush re-election campaign used gay marriage as a wedge issue. It set Francis off on a mission to uncover “the deleted history” of the persecution of gays and lesbians by the U.S. government, and he has turned up some amazing documents about the FBI’s “sex deviates” program and other matters that we’ll be showing for the first time in the film.
Was there anything particularly shocking or memorable about the investigation?
I don’t think most people fully realize (I certainly didn’t) the extent to which gays were targeted by the U.S. government over the years: hundreds of thousands of files collected on individuals solely because of their sexual preference. But for me, the most memorable part of this was tracking down 87-year-old Lester Hunt, Jr., son of the late U.S. Senator Lester Hunt. It was the son’s arrest for soliciting gay sex in Lafayette Park that was used by allies of Joe McCarthy to blackmail his father — a plot that drove Sen. Hunt to commit suicide, and became the inspiration for the blackmail plot inAdvise and Consent. Lester Hunt, Jr. talks on camera for the first time and tells the story, which former Sen. Alan Simpson (who knew Sen. Hunt and appears in the film) likens to something “out ofMacbeth.”
What do you think people who watch the docu-series should take away from it?
I hope they will take away a fuller understanding of the abuses and excesses that our government is capable of, and perhaps a better appreciation of just how far we’ve come on these issues as we await this month’s Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.
The Viewfinder episode “Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays” premieres June 22 on Yahoo Screen.