In a curious twist, Edward Koch's Tuesday election victory has brought to the surface reports about a whispering campaign during the race alleging that New York's next mayor is a homosexual.
The whispers, some of them associated with Koch's closest challeger, New York Secretary of State Mario Cuomo, were active throughout the long campaign, but journalists ignored them or tried to check the rumors and came up blank. Blank.
Not a shred of evidence that Koch is a homesexual has appeared. He is a bachelor who lives in Greenwich Village (when not working as a congressman in Washington) and that, apparently, was enough to cause some people to start whispering.
"I was terribly petrified about the gay issue," Koch campaign strategic David Garth wrote in the New York Daily News today. "We were faced with a decision of whether to confront it and attack it or ignore it. We decided to ignore it."
Aside from the question of whether a candidate's sex life is relevant to how good an office-holder he will eventually be dealth with in print if it is repeated oftern enough.
The dam began to break when the Oct. 30 New York Times Sunday magazine published a long profile of Koch which said that one of the functions of Koch's constant campaign companion, Bess Myerson, "is to dispel rumors that he is a homosexual." Although the article went on to say that ther is no evidence that Koch has ever been a homosexual other reporters used the Times article to bring up the allegation.
An ABC reporter asked Koch the day of the Times publication if Myerson's role in the campaign served such a function.
Koch called the charge vicious. He later told a radio reporter: "I don't happen to be homosexual, but if I were, I would hope that I wouldn't be ashamed of it. God makes you whatever you are."
The Village Voice, a weekly newspaper, followed up with a story calling the mayoral campaign "particularly vicious" and identifying two Cuomo allies as having sought to discover evidence of homosexuality in Koch's past.
In the last days of the campaign, the Associated Press was told that Sam Demilla, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, had evidence damaging to Koch. The allegations were in that Koch refused to press charges after an assault some 12 years ago. The relevance of this report was never spelled out, but the implication was that there were homosexual overtones.
The Ap prepared a story and showed it to Koch and Cuomo but did not release it to its clients. The two candidates denounced the story, but copies of it were sent anonymously to newspaper offices.
After Koch, 52, had won, the AP released a story about the campaign's undercurrents of innuendo. The New York Times wrote a long story recapping the AP handling of the allegations and the New York Post, which fervently supported Koch, carried a similar story. Today, the Post elevated the story to its front page after Demilia said he had no information damaging to Koch. Koch told the Post he is asking the city Investigation Department to inquire into the incident.