Gay Rights Group Demands Columnist Firing p.17

By: Mark Fitzgerald Illinois organization says Chicago Tribune should oust
Mike Royko for slurs he made while being arrested sp.

AN ILLINOIS GAY and lesbian rights group is demanding the Chicago Tribune fire columnist Mike Royko because of slurs he yelled repeatedly while being arrested for drunken driving last December.
Though the arrest is nearly six months old, a police report of the incident was only recently leaked ? and distributed widely by the Illinois Federation for Human Rights, a Chicago-based gay and lesbian rights organization.
The arrest report portrays an extremely intoxicated and disheveled Royko calling police officers and emergency medical technicians "fucking fags," making an ethnic slur, repeatedly slamming his head against a wall while handcuffed in a police holding area, hitting himself in the head and threatening to urinate on the police station floor.
In a letter to Tribune publisher Jack Fuller, the group's executive director, Rick Garcia, said Royko's language during the Dec. 17 arrest "exhibited an appalling level of anti-gay bigotry. Mr. Royko's bigotry is beneath the dignity of the Chicago Tribune.
"We write to urge you to take the strongest possible action against Mr. Royko's bigotry. Not to reprimand him would send the message that hateful bigots can not only find refuge in the Tribune but can hold prominent positions at the Tribune."
Tribune spokesman Jeff Bierig said the newspaper would have no comment other than to say it regards the incident as a personal matter of Royko's.
Royko did not return a phone message for comment, but referred to the disclosure in a June 2 column that mixed self-deprecating humor with barbs about the "shallowness" and "hypocrisy" of a few journalists who covered the controversy.
His only comment to reporters was a statement issued to the Windy City Times, a Chicago gay weekly.
"Obviously, I was intoxicated," he said. That's a bit of an understatement, if the account in the Dec. 17, 1994 supplementary incident report of a Winnetka police officer is accurate.
"When the R/O (responding officer) approached the auto, the R/O could hear the W/M (white male) yelling at Officer (John) Manella, Get you [sic] hands off me you fucking fag, I'm not going anywhere, you jag off," the incident report states.
When an ambulance crew arrived to treat a cut on Royko's head, the columnist was similarly abusive.
"Mr. Royko then started yelling at the R/O to turn the fucking light out, and told the ambulance crew to, 'Get away from me, what are you fags? Why are you wearing fag gloves for?' " the report states.
"At this time, Officer Manella again advised Mr. Royko he was under arrest for driving while intoxicated and took hold of Mr. Royko's arm. Mr. Royko while yelling, 'Fuck you, fag, get your fag hands off me, jag off, queer,' pushed Officer Manella in the chest and pulled away from his grasp," the report states.
According to the report, the 63-year-old Royko drew his fist back as if to throw a punch. He was restrained and told he was under arrest for resisting arrest.
Handcuffed and taken to the police station at Winnetka, the Chicago suburb where he lives, Royko began acting up in the station's arrest processing area, the report says.
"R/O observed subject Royko seated on the bench in the processing room with his left hand cuffed to the bench. R/O observed Royko slamming the back of his head against the wall several times. R/O further observed Royko punching his head with his right fist.
"R/O and Officer Manella asked the subject to stop trying to hurt himself, and if he would like any medical attention. Royko declined any medical treatment and became very belligerent with both Officer Manella and R/O. Royko began yelling at R/O and said, 'What are you, Croatian? You fucking loser! What's your ethnicity, you fag?' " the report states.
The appearance of his attorney, identified in the report as David Pritikin, did not calm down the columnist.
When Pritikin attempted to speak to Royko, Royko yelled, " . . . I don't want any attorney," the report states.
According to the report, Royko stuck his tongue out while being photographed for his police mug shot. A Winnetka officer contacted at the station said it is against department policy to release mug shots.
On May 16, Royko pleaded guilty to drunken driving, resisting arrest and failure to yield. He was fined $1,600, sentenced to two years probation ? with the requirement he abstain from alcohol during the period ? and required to perform 80 hours of community service. In court, he apologized to the Winnetka police officers for his behavior and remarks.
Chicago gay activists have tangled with Royko several times in the past, accusing him of anti-homosexual bias.
"What we do know about Mike Royko is that he has been completely off the wall on gay people and lesbians," Illinois Federation for Human Rights executive director Rick Garcia said.
Garcia drew a distinction between Royko's columns ? "I would never call for anything against him for those kinds of opinions, he has every right to express those views" ? and the slurs Royko uttered during his arrest."
I can understand why [the Tribune] would have no comment on his DWI," Garcia said in an interview. "But these slurs are vile and disgusting ? and he says them over and over . . . I don't think if Mike Royko were Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan on his off-time that the Tribune would regard that as just 'personal.' Well, this is bigotry."
Similarly, LeRoy Aarons, president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, said the Tribune's position is "troubling."
"The Tribune kissed this off as a 'private matter.' But it seems to me a newspaper has to take responsibility for what its highly visible stars say not only in their columns, but off-stage," said Aarons, who emphasized he was not speaking for the organization.
"I wonder what the Tribune's reaction would be if these slurs had been aimed at Jews or blacks. It seems quite often that gays are fair game for this kind of thing these days. I just wish the Tribune were taking this more seriously than it seems to be taking it," Aarons said.


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