Howard Kurtz Scolds NYT for Not Mentioning Sooner in Obituary That Sally Ride Was Gay

Astronaut Sally Ride kept her sexual orientation secret right up to the moment she died.

Yet CNN's Howard Kurtz on Reliable Sources Sunday actually scolded the New York Times for withholding this fact until the 38th paragraph in its obituary for Ride (video follows with transcript and commentary):

HOWARD KURTZ: Finally, did "The New York Times" bury the lead in the 38th paragraph? That's how long it took the paper's obituary on Sally Ride, the pioneering astronaut and first woman in space, to mention something the public didn't know, that Sally Ride was gay and is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy.

Excuse me: her being gay was "the lead?" Really? Apparently so:

KURTZ: Now, Ride had every right to keep her private life private, and there's no reason for anybody to go overboard about this. But the fact that she was in a relationship with a woman for nearly three decades and was using the occasion of her death to come out seems a pretty important fact in any summing up of her remarkable life, not something to be tucked into the bottom of a story.

With all due respect, a national hero's sexual orientation is not the most important aspect of her life. For Kurtz to suggest so was absurd.

Ride and her surviving partner O'Shaughnessy also "buried" this "lead" in the obituary the two of them wrote together for her.

In addition, New Times reported last Monday:


Ride's sister, Bear, who is also gay, told New Times Monday night that her sister never publicly revealed her sexual orientation because of a closely held commitment to her personal privacy.

"Sally was a profoundly private person. It was just part of who she was. We chalk that up to being Norwegian," Bear said. "She had a sense of 'this is family stuff.'"

If Ride was private about this issue, why did the Times do anything wrong by respecting her wishes in its obituary?

Beyond this, the Times did make a big deal of Ride's sexual orientation in a Tuesday blog posting by editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal entitled "Sally Ride and DOMA."

Maybe Kurtz missed this, as well as the apparent fact that Ride wanted to be known as a scientist and an astronaut and not just for being a lesbian.

Shouldn't her wishes be respected, or is advancing an agenda more important?

Kudos to the Times for surprisingly getting this one right; shame on Kurtz for calling them out for it.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.