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NEW YORK (AP) — Italian fashion house Gucci announced a major push Friday to step up diversity hiring as part of a long-term plan to build cultural awareness at the luxury fashion company following an uproar over an $890 sweater that resembled blackface.
Gucci also said it will hire a global director for diversity and inclusion, a newly created role that will be based in New York, plus five new designers from around the world for its Rome office. It also will launch multi-cultural scholarship programs in 10 cities around the world with the goal of building a "more diverse and inclusive workplace on an ongoing basis.”
The announcement came after Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri met in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood with Dapper Dan, a well-known African-American designer, and other community members to hear their perspectives. Dapper Dan, who collaborated with Gucci in 2017 on a menswear line, has emerged as a leading voice demanding accountability from Gucci over the sweater, which was black with a pull-up neck featuring a cutout surrounded by cartoonish red lips. Bizzarri said Gucci has spent the past days conducting a “thorough review of the circumstances that led to this” and consulting with employees and African-American community leaders on what actions the company should take. “I am particularly grateful to Dapper Dan for the role he has played in bringing community leaders together to offer us their counsel at this time,” Bizzarri said in statement. Earlier Friday, Dapper Dan tweeted that the participants at the meeting “made great demands” of Gucci. He said he would announce a town hall meeting in Harlem “for us to talk about what they have proposed.” In May, Gucci said it will begin conducting annual one-day unconscious-bias training sessions for its 18,000 employees around the world.
The design scholarship program will be launched in New York, Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, New Delhi, Beijing, the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo, Beirut, London and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The company described it as a 12-month fast-track program leading to full-time employment. Gucci has apologized for the sweater, which creative director Alessandro Michele said was not inspired by blackface but by the late Leigh Bowery, a performance artist, club promoter and fashion designer who often used flamboyant face makeup and costumes. “I look forward to welcoming new perspectives to my team and together working even harder for Gucci to represent a voice for inclusivity,” Michele said in statement Friday.
CHICAGO (AP) — The investigation into black actor Jussie Smollett’s account of being beaten in a racist, anti-gay attack took a sharp turn Friday when police announced the arrest of two black men they believe assaulted the “Empire” cast member.
At least one of the men worked on the TV show, police said.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said authorities had probable cause to believe the suspects committed assault and battery against Smollett. But they had not been charged as of Friday afternoon.
Guglielmi would not comment on a possible motive.
Smollett, who is gay, has said two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country!” beat him and looped a rope around his neck early on Jan. 29 before running away. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him.
The police spokesman said that there is “no evidence to say that this is a hoax” and that Smollett “continues to be treated by police as a victim, not a suspect.”
The two suspects, identified only as Nigerian brothers, were picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Wednesday on their return from Nigeria after police learned at least one worked on “Empire,” Guglielmi said. He said he did not know what the man’s job was.
Guglielmi said police also searched the Chicago apartment where the men lived. But he said he had no information on what was found.
The police spokesman’s comments followed a furious 24 hours that included local media reports that the attack was a hoax.
Police said those reports were unconfirmed. And the producers of “Empire” disputed as “patently ridiculous” news reports that Smollett’s character was being written out of the show before the attack.
Smollett, 36, has said he was attacked while out getting food at a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago.
Guglielmi said police have not found any surveillance video of an attack but continue to look. He said police also are contacting stores in the hope of finding out who bought the rope that was around Smollett’s neck.
In an interview with ABC News, the singer and actor said he didn’t remove the rope from around his neck before police arrived “because I wanted them to see.”
Smollett also said he initially refused to give police his cellphone because the device contained private content and phone numbers. He later gave detectives heavily redacted phone records that police have said are insufficient for an investigation.
PARIS (AP) — A gay French writer has lifted the lid on what he calls one of the world’s largest gay communities, the Vatican, estimating that most of its prelates are homosexually inclined and attributing much of the current crisis in the Catholic Church to an internal struggle. In the explosive book, “In the Closet of the Vatican,” author Frederic Martel describes a gay subculture at the Vatican and calls out the hypocrisy of Catholic bishops and cardinals who in public denounce homosexuality but in private lead double lives.
Aside from the subject matter, the book is astonishing for the access Martel had to the inner sanctum of the Holy See. Martel writes that he spent four years researching it in 30 countries, including weeks at a time living inside the Vatican walls. He says the doors were opened by a key Vatican gatekeeper and friend of Pope Francis who was the subject of the pontiff’s famous remark about gay priests, “Who am I to judge?”
In an interview Friday in a Paris hotel, Martel said he didn’t tell his subjects he was writing about homosexuality in the Vatican. But he said it should have been obvious to them since he is a gay man who was researching the inner world of the Vatican and has written about homosexuality before. He said it was easier for him, as a gay foreigner, to gain the trust of those inside the Vatican than it would have been for an Italian journalist or Vatican expert.
“If you’re heterosexual it’s even harder. You don’t have the codes,” he told The Associated Press. “If you’re a woman, even more so.”
Martel says he conducted nearly 1,500 in-person interviews with 41 cardinals, 52 bishops or monsignors, and 45 Vatican and foreign ambassadors, many of whom are quoted at length and in on-the-record interviews that he says were recorded. Martel said he was assisted by 80 researchers, translators, fixers and local journalists, as well as a team of 15 lawyers. The 555-page book is being published simultaneously in eight languages in 20 countries, many bearing the title “Sodom.”
The Vatican didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Martel appears to want to bolster Francis’ efforts at reforming the Vatican by discrediting his biggest critics and removing the secrecy and scandal that surrounds homosexuality in the church. Church doctrine holds that gays are to be treated with respect and dignity, but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”
“Francis knows that he has to move on the church’s stance, and that he will only be able to do this at the cost of a ruthless battle against all those who use sexual morality and homophobia to conceal their own hypocrisies and double lives,” Martel writes.
But the book’s Feb. 21 publication date coincides with the start of Francis’ summit of church leaders on preventing the sexual abuse of minors, a crisis that is undermining his papacy. The book isn’t about abuse, but the timing of its release could fuel the narrative, embraced by conservatives and rejected by the gay community, that the abuse scandal has been caused by homosexuals in the priesthood.
Martel is quick to separate the two issues. But he echoes the analysis of the late abuse researcher and psychotherapist A.W. Richard Sipe that the hidden sex lives of priests has created a culture of secrecy that allowed the abuse of minors to flourish. According to that argument, since many prelates in positions of authority have their own hidden sexual skeletons, they have no interest in denouncing the criminal pedophiles in their midst lest their own secrets be revealed.
“It’s a problem that it’s coming out at the same time (as the summit),” Martel acknowledged in the AP interview, adding that the book was finished last year but its release was delayed for translation. “But at the same time it’s, alas, the key to the problem. It’s both not the subject, and the subject.”
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of “Building a Bridge” about how the Catholic Church should reach out more to the LGBT community, said that based on the excerpts he had read, Martel’s book “makes a convincing case that in the Vatican many priests bishops and even cardinals are gay, and that some of them are sexually active.”
But Martin added that the book’s sarcastic tone belies its fatal flaw. “His extensive research is buried under so much gossip and innuendo that it makes it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.”
“There are many gay priests, bishops and cardinals in ministry today in the church,” Martin said. “But most of them are, like their straight counterparts, remaining faithful to a life of chastity and celibacy.”
In the course of his research, Martel said he came to several conclusions about the reality of the Holy See that he calls the “rules,” chief among them that the more obviously gay the priest, bishop or cardinal, the more vehement his anti-gay rhetoric.
Martel says his aim is not to “out” living prelates, though he makes some strong insinuations about those who are “in the parish,” a euphemism he learns is code for gay clergy.
Martin said Martel “traffics in some of the worst gay stereotypes” by using sarcastic and derogatory terms, such as when he writes of Francis’ plight: “Francis is said to be ‘among the wolves.’ It’s not quite true: he’s among the queens.”
Martel moves from one scandal to another — from the current one over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington to the priest-friendly gay migrant prostitute scene near Rome’s train station. He traces the reasons behind Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, and devotes a whole chapter to the cover-up of the Mexican founder of the Legion of Christ, the pedophile Rev. Marcial Maciel. In each, Martel parses the scandal through the lens of the gay-friendly or homophobic prelates he says were involved.
Equal parts investigative journalism and salacious gossip, Martel paints a picture of an institution almost at war with itself, rife with rumor and with leaders struggling to rationalize their own sexual appetites and orientations with official church teachings that require chastity and its unofficial tradition of hostility toward gays.
“Never, perhaps, have the appearances of an institution been so deceptive,” Martel writes. “Equally deceptive are the pronouncements about celibacy and the vows of chastity that conceal a completely different reality.”
Martel is not a household name in France, but is known in the French LGBT community as an advocate for gay rights. Those familiar with his work view it as rigorous, notably his 90-minute weekly show on public radio station France Culture called “Soft Power.” Recent episodes include investigations into global digital investment and the U.S.-China trade war.
As a French government adviser in the 1990s, he played a prominent role in legislation allowing civil unions, which not only allowed gay couples to formalize their relationships and share assets, but also proved hugely popular among heterosexual French couples increasingly skeptical of marriage.
His nonfiction books include a treatise on homosexuality in France over the past 50 years called “The Pink and the Black” (a sendup of Stendhal’s classic “The Red and the Black”), as well as an investigation of the internet industry and a study of culture in the United States.
Martel attributes the high percentage of gays in the clergy to the fact that up until the homosexual liberation of the 1970s, gay Catholic men had few options. “So these pariahs became initiates and made a strength of a weakness,” he writes. That analysis helps explain the dramatic fall in vocations in recent decades, as gay Catholic men now have other options, not least to live their lives openly, even in marriage.
Martel said no special interests financed the book, other than his advance from the publisher.
With Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award wins behind him for his role as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, Oscar nominee Rami Malek spoke about the allegations of serial sexual predation against the film's director Bryan Singer at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Friday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Malek was awarded the SAG award from his acting peers last Sunday but avoided speaking about Singer, even though controversy hit the film just days prior when The Atlantic released an exposé that delved into allegations that Singer had been sexually abusing young men for decades. "My heart goes out to anyone who has to live through anything like what I've heard and what is out there," said Malek, who was being honored in Santa Barbara, Calif. for his role as Mercury, the singular bisexual front man of Queen. "It's awful, it's remarkable that this happens. I can appreciate so much what they've been through and how difficult this must be for them,” Malek continued. “In the light of the #MeToo era that this somehow seems to exist after that, it's a horrible thing." The Mr. Robot star previously said that he signed on to the role prior to Singer’s coming on board and he was unaware of rumors about the director’s alleged history of sexually abusing young men. “As far as I knew, I was considered before Bryan was even attached,” Malek told the Los Angeles Times late last month. “So I had my head down preparing for this for about a year ahead of time, and I never really looked up.” During his remarks in Santa Barbara, Malek reiterated that Singer had been fired from the film. "For anyone who is seeking any solace in all of this, Bryan Singer was fired. Bryan Singer was fired, I don't think that was something anyone saw coming but I think that had to happen and it did,” Malek said. Singer was fired from the film shortly before shooting wrapped for failing to show up to set, but his name is still attached to the biopic. It also came out last week that despite being let go, he could still rake in $40 million for directing the film. Malek also told the crowd at the film festival that he did not enjoy his working relationship with the X-Men director. "In my situation with Bryan, it was not pleasant, not at all. And that's about what I can say about it at this point,” Malek said. A few days after The Atlantic piece hit, GLAAD announced it did not nominate Bohemian Rhapsody for an award because the organization intended to send a message that it “stands with survivors of sexual assault.”
(CNN) Gavin McInnes, founder of far-right group Proud Boys, is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for designating his organization a hate group.
The Proud Boys describe themselves as "Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world." The group's site argues its allure stems from the fact that young American men and women are "finished" with "apology culture" but disavows links to the alt-right or to white supremacists.
McInnes, a co-founder of Vice Media before leaving that outlet in 2008, founded the Proud Boys in 2016 in New York. The group has since spread across the United States as well as to countries like Australia and Japan.
Facebook and Instagram have banned the Proud Boys, citing their policies against hate groups. Twitter shut down accounts related to the Proud Boys last year, making the group's membership totals harder to pin down. A survey by Rewire in 2017 estimated the group's social media membership at 6,000 when it was still allowed on those platforms.
McInnes left the group in November 2018 following pressure by the SPLC and other groups toward "both him and the Proud Boys," according to the allegations, filed in federal court in Alabama.
His complaint outlines a long list of accusations SPLC has published against him and the Proud Boys that he says are false, including a statement that he is anti-gay. The complaint alleges that SPLC's "hate" designation led to him being banned from social media platforms he used to build his audience as well as online-payment platforms, including PayPal and Google AdSense, that he used to monetize his message.
McInnes is seeking unspecified damages, citing lost business income and damage to his reputation. He's also asking that the SPLC publicly apologize and retract its allegation that McInnes is tied to a hate group.
The SPLC's president, Richard Cohen, called McInnes' case "meritless" in a statement.
"To paraphrase FDR, judge us by the enemies we've made," Cohen wrote. "Gavin McInnes has a history of making inflammatory statements about Muslims, women and the transgender community. The fact that he's upset with SPLC tells us that we're doing our job exposing hate and extremism."
In its 2017 report "100 Days in Trump's America: White Nationalists and Their Agenda Infiltrate the Mainstream," the SPLC noted the Proud Boys' role in organizing a pro-Trump rally in Berkeley, California, in which the group clashed with counterprotesters, leaving 11 people injured and six hospitalized.
The SPLC designated the Proud Boys a hate group in February 2018 when it released its annual hate group list. It defines a hate group as "an organization that -- based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities -- has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."
The SPLC's website lists a number of statements from McInnes to support its claim, including an interview he gave with NBC in which he said, "I'm not a fan of Islam. I think it's fair to call me Islamophobic." The NBC video cuts to another Proud Boy member attempting to couch the Islamophobia in a progressive veneer, saying, "I can't think of a single Christian nation that throws gay people off of buildings."
The SPLC also published a blog post detailing how some members of the Proud Boys were caught on camera attacking protesters alongside white nationalists following a speech by McInnes in New York last year. Members of the Proud Boys also attended the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. However, McInnes disavowed the rally two months before it happened.
Other groups have mounted lawsuits against the SPLC in recent years, claiming the organization's hate group list painted with too broad a brush.
Last June, counter-extremism think tank Quilliam received a $3.37 million settlement and an apology from SPLC after the watchdog group admitted it erroneously included the group and its founder Maajid Nawaz in a publication about anti-Muslim extremists.
McInnes' complaint also alleges the SPLC paid $3.4 million to settle a claim by the Family Research Council. But in an email to CNN a SPLC spokeswoman said there was no such claim or settlement.
Patricia Nell Warren was noticeable anywhere. That shock of curly white hair crowning the famous Montana-born lesbian was a beacon for nervously thrilled gay men to find the writer holding court at whatever event she attended. “You saved my life,” they told “The Front Runner” author over and over until the day before her death, according to her close friend Gregory Zanfardino. He and his best friend Darryl Davis were with Warren when she died on Saturday, Feb. 9 at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica after an almost three year struggle with lung cancer. Warren was 82. “She was an amazing friend. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for her,” Zanfardino told the Los Angeles Blade by phone. “Up until her last moments, she was very clear. And she was constantly getting emails all the time from young people and older people who literally told her ‘The Front Runner’ saved their lives. That book still, to this day, inspires people.” “The Front Runner” was a landmark gay novel published in 1974, five years after the Stonewall riots, one year before California officially decriminalized homosexuality; the first to print the word “gay” on the cover and the first to make the New York Times bestseller list.
But while it is often tagged as a “gay love story of Coach Harlan Brown and his Olympic runner Billy Sive” in the 1970s, as publisher William Morrow first framed it, Warren intended it to be broader in scope. “The Front Runner” is really about how closeted, masculine, conservative Vietnam Marine veteran Harlan Brown, 39, gave up his own dream of running in the Olympics, of coaching prospective Olympic athletes at a prestigious college, of quelling his own humanity out of fear of being exposed as gay. When he and gay distance runner Billy Sive, 22, fall in love at a small New England college, the world of sports rears up against Sive representing the U.S. in the Olympic, where he meets with a horrific end.
“[T]he book’s prose had to be the voice of a conservative ex-Marine veteran who is at war with himself. He knows he’s gay and attracted to men, but he refuses to let himself feel, to let himself be that person he knows he is, because of his repressive Bible-taught family upbringing and military background,” Warren wrote for TheFrontRunnerMovie.com. “When Harlan finds himself falling secretly in love with Billy Sive, the conflict only intensifies and almost drives him mad, until he is finally “human” enough to give in and let himself be in love.” After Billy is murdered in a hate crime on live TV, how can Harlan Brown go on? What becomes of him? “One big reason why I wanted to paint the story so broadly, yet so personally, was that I hoped non-gay people would read the book as well as gay people,” Warren wrote. “When the book was written, as well as today, stereotypes of gay males as limp-wristed liberals is embedded in people’s minds. Harlan is a crusty gay ex-Marine, a drill-sergeant kind of guy. I wanted to confront readers with the inner reality of such a man because I know they exist.”
In fact, Zanfardino tells the Los Angeles Blade, Warren’s wish came true. Shortly before her death, Warren received an email from a straight woman who told her homophobic husband to read the book from beginning to end.Afterwards, he confessed that he never realized how people like him can hurt people. The book was a glimpse into the lives of two men who only wanted to love each other and do sports. “The book touched hearts,” says Zanfardino.
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