The cringe-inducing documentary The Homosexuals, which aired on March 7, 1967, was the first network documentary dealing with the topic of homosexuality, although, given the tone and the way the subject matter was treated, trust me, they weren’t doing us any favors. It included interviews with several gay men, psychiatrists, legal experts, and cultural critics, and was interspersed with footage of a gay bar and a police sex sting. The result was “the single most destructive hour of antigay propaganda in our nation’s history,” says LGBT activist Wayne Besen. “The Homosexuals not only had a devastating effect on public opinion but also was a nuclear bomb dropped on the psyches of gay and lesbian Americans, who, prior to this show, had never been represented as a group on national television.”
In his summation at the end of the hourlong show, Mike Wallace looked at the camera and said: “The dilemma of the homosexual: Told by the medical profession he is sick; by the law that he’s a criminal; shunned by employers; rejected by heterosexual society. Incapable of a fulfilling relationship with a woman, or for that matter with a man. At the center of his life he remains anonymous. A displaced person. An outsider. ” He later came to regret those words, and his participation in the documentary. In 1992 he said: “I should have known better. That is — God help us — what our understanding was of the homosexual lifestyle a mere twenty-five years ago because nobody was out of the closet and because that’s what we heard from doctors — that’s what Socaridis told us, it was a matter of shame.” Although, it should be noted that as recently as 1995, Wallace told an interviewer that he believed homosexuals could change their orientation if they really wanted to, so let’s not let him off the hook THAT easy, and let’s not canonize him just yet.