It was a proud moment for the James Beard Foundation when its president, Susan Ungaro, returned an award she received from the Boy Scouts of America after it was revealed that the Scouts are anti-gay.
The irony here is that James Beard himself was openly gay. Michelangelo Signorile, an outspoken writer of gay issues, wrote this in a blog at HuffPost: “It was especially troubling considering that the legendary chef and cookbook writer James Beard was an openly gay man who was thrown out of Reed College in Portland in 1922 for precisely the same reason: because he was gay.”
I have to say, I’m not sure how Ms. Ungaro didn’t know about this, since the Boy Scouts’ bigotry has been news fodder for years now. My guess is that she did know but didn’t really think out the implications of accepting an award from them. In fact, she stated, “When I accepted the honor, I was focused on supporting the New Jersey chefs and restaurant community.”
Understandable. Sometimes you don’t see the forest for the trees. But it is to her credit that she returned the award. In a note to Signorile, she wrote: “While I support all the poverty and hunger-fighting programs of the Boy Scouts of America, including sending at-risk youth to camp, your report brought to my attention that accepting the Distinguished Citizen Award implied I support their anti-gay policy, which I absolutely do not [...] I have informed the Boy Scouts of America that I am rescinding my acceptance of the award.”
Go Susan for saying no to bigotry! And go Michelangelo for pointing out the (albeit unintentional) trangression!
My real question is, did the Boy Scouts know that James Beard was gay, and, if so, why would they present an award to its president? Hmmm.