James Beard Foundation Prez Returns Award To Anti-Gay Boys Scouts

James Beard was one of the great foodies of the 20th century, a friend of Julia Child and an out gay man at a time that was unheard of. And he helped popularize fine dining in America, a nation reared on burgers and fried chicken. After Beard’s death in 1985, the James Beard Foundation continued his work, awarding recognition to great chefs, restaurateurs, cookbook writers and other defenders of great cuisine.

Ironically, the Foundation’s president, Susan Ungaro, was just honored by the Boy Scouts of America. Y’know, that bigoted group that doesn’t allow gay men to be scouts or troop leaders? Ungaro apparently didn’t think there was a problem accepting an award from a group that wouldn’t let the man responsible for her job be a member. She was only too happy to accept the trophy.

Until O.G. (Old-Gay) rabble rouser Michelangelo Signorile called Ungaro on her shit. (Actually he politely asked her press rep if for an explanation.)

First Ungaro’s rep said, “[She] accepted the award to support the dozens of New Jersey chefs who give of their time and resources year after year to raise money to send deserving at-risk youth to camp.”

Signorile responded by asking if Ms. Ungaro, a former editor at Family Circle and an occasional judge on Top Chef, would accept an award from an organization that banned blacks, just because it was giving food to needy white kids.

After that Ungardo did a complete 180 and returned the honor.

In a statement to Signorile, she said:

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. When I accepted the honor, I was focused on supporting the New Jersey chefs and restaurant community. I have informed the Boy Scouts of America that I am rescinding my acceptance of the award.

People, people, people: Have we not all accepted that we live in a digital, hyper-intrusive society where you can’t pass gas without someone updating their Facebook status about it?  The whole thing leaves a bad taste in our mouth.(Get it? Food… taste…? Ah nevermind.)

Photo: William Paterson University

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  • Plankton Menace

    That was kind of a crumby thing to do. Glad she had to eat her words.

  • Adam

    Why must the BSA keep up this ridiculous bylaw? How about 30 more years of arguments running around the barn?

  • Kelrick Drake-Sargent

    How about giving her credit for returning the award? I think it is completely plausible that at the time the award was offered all she was thinking about was the positives. There are only so many things an individual can focus on at a given time. Perhaps all she needed was to have someone bring to her attention the need to acknowledge this negative – which happened, and then she corrected the issues. I fail to see why that should garner further criticism instead of praise. I say: “GOOD JOB” on acknowledging the mistake and stepping up once informed.

    My opinion would, obviously, be different if she had behaved differently and ignored this communities point regarding the Boy-Scouts.

  • michael

    Way to go Queerty. Take something positive and focus only on the negative. What she did should be applauded but once again I feel like I am hanging out with the bitter jaded queen in the corner whom all others avoid. People like you are a disgrace to our community.

  • John K.

    Hear, hear. Great job. These bigots will only change their ways as their status in society dwindles and more people refuse to be associated with them. I hope this gets a lot of press.

  • Who actually likes coffee?

    @michael: Hallelujah!

  • Chris S.

    @michael: I concur. She seriously may have just not thought about it, and when someone caused her to actually think about it, she quickly did the right thing.

  • cam

    @Adam: said…

    Why must the BSA keep up this ridiculous bylaw? How about 30 more years of arguments running around the barn?”

    Because their largest membership now comes from the Mormon Church followed by the Catholic schools.

  • 1equalityUSA

    Cam—Those boys are in for it if the Catholics are behind them.

  • Joe stratford

    We say “good job” to someone who was, essentially, forced to not do the wrong thing? Considering she works for a fondation named after a gay man, she should not have made that mistake in the first place. It’s like working as CEO of Harpo and accepting an award from a “good” organization that discriminates against blacks or women. The most she can expect is neutrality, not praise. And if she gets criticized, she would deserve it. A CEO is not an ordinary person and should be expected to be more than an averted person.

  • Alan Brickman

    Where’s the surprise…Most female ceo’s have no problem kicking gay rights under the bus….

  • Reece

    Everyone makes mistakes, but how we make up for them determines what kind of person we are. I’m glad that Susan thought about the implications of accepting the award and realized the message she was sending.

    Growing up as a closeted Boy Scout, I still have a soft spot in my heart for all of the good that the organization does, despite my strong opposition to some of their social policies. My mother is still the Scoutmaster of the troop I was part of myself, and I know on a local level that she’s VERY accepting of the boys she looks after and ensures that they treat each other with respect and honor despite their differences. I’m glad she has continued in shaping the lives of young men, and I’m very proud of her. Sometimes to change an organization, it helps to be a part of it and change it from the inside out.

  • Clarknt67

    I can’t believe the nasty spin and nasty comments here. Ungaro returned the award and released a great very supportive statement within hours of Signorile drawing her attention to the issue.

    Guess what? She’s a straight woman and probably a very busy one. Her life may not revolve around whether gays can join the Boy Scouts. It may not be at the forefront of her conciousness.

    But so bitching over a story that is win for the LGBT community.

    And BSA got a public bitch slapping. What is not to be happy about here?

  • 13Zeroither

    makes me wonder if BSA will ever change there rules about lgbt people joining. And if so, how long will it take? Speaking of which, are they still uptight about masturbating?

  • Jody

    I say good job for doing the right thing. What motivation are we giving anyone to correct a wrong, if we are going to dog them out for it anyway. She was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. We have enough real enemies to focus on folks, we don’t need to play victim at every perceived slight.

Comments are closed.