“In 1989, he drew national attention for an attack on the National Endowment for the Arts after it funded works he considered homoerotic and anti-Christian,” the Washington Post obit of Jesse Helms reads, without telling us whether it too might have characterized those works — which remain unidentified — as homoerotic and anti-Christian. The purpose, of course, is to suggest that Helms was off his bigoted rocker.
At least the New York Times does the more responsible thing by providing context and naming names, if still somewhat euphemistically:
In the 1980’s he took on the National Endowment for the Arts for subsidizing art that he found offensive, chiefly that of the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who explored gay themes in some of his work, and of the artist Andres Serrano, who depicted a crucifix submerged in urine.
Regardless of the fusillade of condemnations his death has set off from all the usual sources — and some new ones, such as the Post‘s online “On Faith” column, where writer David Waters only pretends to follow his grandfather’s injunction not to speak ill of the dead (and don’t miss the comments here) — suffice it to say that Helms will forever have the last word. He died on July 4.
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