Letters from the Issue of November 14, 2002

Welcome to the great Rosie O'Donnell controversy

It shouldn't take an injustice to bring us together. As Haitians we must put aside all the past suspicions of other groups and learn to work together. We can all do much more for Haitians if we choose to. We ourselves would be committing a major injustice if we close our eyes and ignore the obvious. This shouldn't be about color, race, or politics. This should be about human rights and the pursuit of a better life for all.

Francis Francois

Miami

Editor's note: To clarify one statement made in Rebecca Wakefield's article, Cuban immigrants who reach U.S. soil are not automatically granted political asylum, though they are free to seek asylum. Under the provisions of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, all immigrants from the island -- with rare exceptions -- who are paroled into the U.S. are eligible for permanent residency one year following their grant of parole.

If You Knew Rosie Like I Know Rosie

You'd understand why she had to cancel: In a "Kulchur" column about the highly successful Dade Human Rights Foundation fundraising dinner held October 19 ("The Political Dance," October 31), Brett Sokol, citing unnamed "foundation sources," asserted that a foundation award intended for Rosie O'Donnell was rescinded so it could be offered to Hillary Clinton. That is false. Mr. Sokol should check his sources. To set the record straight: At no time was any award rescinded from Rosie O'Donnell.

Last spring the foundation board of directors authorized two national-impact awards: one to a political figure and another to a relevant nonpolitician who, in this case, was destined to be Ms. O'Donnell. Contrary to what Mr. Sokol wrote, there was never any need to contemplate an option such as "Now that we have Y, let's get rid of X."

I was president of the foundation at that time and I personally handled the transactions with the O'Donnell organization, from our invitation to her acceptance to her later reluctant but very understandable need to cancel -- notice of which came to me even though by that late date my term as president had ended.

To shed any more light on the particulars of Ms. O'Donnell's decision would be to breach the friendly but private manner in which these matters were managed. Suffice it to say that Ms. O'Donnell's decision to cancel was initiated by her and was precipitated by a totally unrelated personal business matter that had nothing to do with the foundation, any award recipient or participant in the dinner, any gay or lesbian issue, politics in general, or even South Florida in particular.

I know the foundation's board and leadership, though disappointed, fully understood Ms. O'Donnell's course of action. They maintain nothing but admiration and deep affection for her, as do I. Given the late-summer date of Ms. O'Donnell's cancellation, the only national-impact award presented of the two authorized the previous spring was the political one, which went to Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Sokol should not impute crude and offensive behavior to any person or organization without verifying the facts and checking his sources. In this instance, he certainly never attempted to get in touch with me. He owes the Dade Human Rights Foundation an apology.

Ignacio Martínez-Ybor, co-founder and past president

Dade Human Rights Foundation

Miami

Damaging, Threatening, Shocking, Unprofessional, Unethical, Untruthful

In case you haven't guessed, we're just a little bit peeved: The Gay and Lesbian Foundation of South Florida (formerly the Dade Human Rights Foundation) issued a letter to the editor last week in response to Brett Sokol's "Kulchur" column "The Political Dance." Mr. Sokol chose to respond to our letter in a very damaging and unprofessional manner. I believe New Times readers are entitled to the truth, and I would like to set the record straight.

This is part of Mr. Sokol's response to our letter: "After the dinner, foundation vice president Alicia Apfel stated that Rosie O'Donnell was offered the award but never responded." That is not only untrue, it is unethical as far as journalistic standards are concerned. Mr. Sokol has never spoken to me directly or indirectly about the GLFSF/DHRF annual recognition dinner, yet he mentioned me as the source. And he never spoke to me or anyone else at the foundation prior to submitting his column.

Mr. Sokol did speak to foundation president Joe Guerrero after his column was printed. He basically threatened Mr. Guerrero after reading our letter to the editor, which had not yet been published. Mr. Sokol warned Mr. Guerrero that a rebuttal from the foundation would force him to print information that would embarrass him and myself. He was correct about that. He did embarrass two dedicated volunteers in the community and their fellow board members by issuing false statements.

Mr. Sokol spoke to Joe Guerrero twice after his column ran, prior to his published response regarding the letter submitted to New Times. During the first conversation Mr. Sokol told Mr. Guerrero that I had made some statements to him. Later, in his second conversation with Mr. Guerrero, he changed his story and said a third party was his source. He basically lied to Guerrero and later to New Times readers in his rebuttal. This is not a good pattern for any reporter.

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