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Reactions to Charlton Heston's Speech to the Free Congress Foundation

Julian Bond, Board Chairman, NAACP

    Charlton Heston's civil rights credentials are seriously sullied by his bigoted and homophobic remarks and his attacks on racial minorities. The endorsement by white supremacist David Duke further threatens to erode the considerable respect many Americans felt toward Heston for his years-ago commitment to human rights.

    That Charlton Heston seems to have been consumed by another—an angry man contemptuous of America's diversity and scornful of the tolerance which has made our nation great.

    The NAACP condemns such expressions of hatred and calls on Mr. Heston to repudiate the support of extremists and those who call for "war" against peaceful citizens.

Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation

    I am shocked by Charlton Heston's intemperate remarks delivered before the Free Congress Foundation. Heston in one speech manages to display deep-seated bigotry and hostility while attacking feminists, African Americans, Hispanics, gay men, and lesbians. No wonder David Duke praised this speech. Heston's comments on feminists, who he characterizes as persons "who preach that it is a divine duty for women to hate men," not only malign feminists but show his profound ignorance of a movement that has made in the 20th Century vast political, social, and economic gains for women.

Nancy McDonald, President, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG)

    Like so many parents nationwide, I hope Charlton Heston will join the rapidly growing numbers of Americans who see how critical it is for all of us, especially our children, to be able to live in a safe world.

    I, and tens of thousands of other moms, dads, grandparents and family members of gays and lesbians, look forward to the time when Mr. Heston comes to understand how words like his foster an angry environment that all too often results in discrimination, gay-bashing and youth suicide.

    It's plain and simple: every single U.S. citizen deserves to live in a world free of violence, in a world full of tolerance.

Gloria Steinem, feminist author

    Extremists tend to soft-pedal their message in public, and instruct their constituencies in private. That's what pro-gun leader Charlton Heston did in his unreported 1997 speech to the Free Congress Foundation. He declared "cultural warfare" against "the fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition, the feminists who preach that it's a divine duty for women to hate men, blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with the other [and] Clinton's cultural shock troops [who] participate in homosexual-rights fundraisers but boycott gun-rights fundraisers..."

    Thanks to the Violence Policy Center in Washington, which has obtained a videotape, Heston is also heard saying, "it's time to pull the plug" and "draw your sword and fight" against such groups as those cited above, despite "fear of CNN or the IRS or SAG or the ATF or NBC or even WJC." Those organizations were also compared to "Nazis" and "a Gestapo officer" punishing the God-fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle class...admittedly heterosexual, gun-owning...NRA card-carrying, average working stiff..."

    His speech was also endorsed by Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.

    It is up to each of us to publicize these views expressed by Heston, already the vice president of one of this country's most powerful political organizations, the National Rifle Association, and likely to become its president at a meeting scheduled to begin June 5th.

Marcia Gillespie, Ms. Magazine

    It's very sad and very telling that the actor, Charlton Heston, who is the First Vice President of the National Rifle Association, in speeches defends the right to bear arms while championing white power—most specifically the virtues of being white and heterosexual, prolife, fundamentalist, and antifeminist. Heston's views on recent history are as distorted as his attacks on those who advocate for gun control. He condemns Hip hoppers like Ice-T but has nothing to say about the skin heads, he ignores the rise of white supremacist and militia groups but calls for "cultural warfare." Meanwhile, people espousing to believe in all the things Mr. H. seems to hold so dear have shot and killed abortion providers, engaged in hate crimes against people of color, lesbians, and gays. They witness the carnage wreaked by gun-toting children and champion gun ownership.

    Mr. Heston may not consider his remarks racist, or sexist, or homophobic, he may not know that words not that dissimilar from his have been used to justify oppression and violence, but I do. For shame, Mr. H!

Joan M. Garry, Executive Director, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

    The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) recently received a transcript and videotape from the Violence Policy Center in Washington, of a speech delivered by Charlton Heston last December to the Free Congress Foundation. We find portions of Mr. Heston's very carefully-worded remarks to be both offensive and misleading.

    Mr. Heston's sentiments concerning lesbians and gay men —no matter how carefully veiled—are nonetheless transparent. Such disparaging remarks serve as fuel for those who fear difference and promote intolerance. Equally abhorrent are Mr. Heston's offensive remarks regarding African Americans and feminists. Finally, Mr. Heston's analogy recalling the Gestapo is shameful.

    GLAAD hopes that public figures use every opportunity possible to dismantle the still sturdy walls of prejudice. GLAAD will continue to work in concert with our colleagues —men, women, black, white, straight and gay—to ensure civil rights for us all.