It has been more than three months since actor Sean Penn received an Academy Award for his portrayal of the late Harvey Milk.

Author and columnist Dan Flynn has noted the following:

  • “My inaugural post ponders how Gus Van Sant could have made a film about Harvey Milk without casting a ‘Jim Jones’ role.”

  • “Harvey Milk and the San Francisco left allowed Jim Jones to conduct his criminal enterprise in San Francisco with impunity, as payback for his ability to supply campaign volunteers on cue.”
  • “It’s a strange world where merely being homosexual and subscribing to a few fashionable leftist beliefs can erase a shameful supporting role enabling the mass murdering of 914 people. Going to the Fourth Estate was also a fruitless endeavor, as San Francisco media institutions such as columnist Herb Caen were boosters of Jones and his Peoples Temple.”

    “When veteran journalist Les Kinsolving penned an eight-part investigative report on Peoples Temple for the San Francisco Examiner in 1972, his editors buckled under pressure from Jones and killed the report halfway through.

    “Kinsolving quipped that the Peoples Temple was ‘the best-armed house of God in the land,’ detailed the kidnapping and possible murder of disgruntled members, exposed Jones’ phony faith healing, highlighted Jones’ vile school-sanctioned sex talk with children and directed attention toward the Peoples Temple’s massive welfare fraud that funded its operations.”

    “Unfortunately four of the series of eight articles were jettisoned after Jones unleashed hundreds of protesters to the San Francisco Examiner, a programmed letter-writing campaign and a threatened lawsuit against the paper. The Examiner promptly issued a laudatory article on Jones. …

    “Frisco politicians like Harvey Milk never seemed to care how Jones could, at the snap of his fingers, direct hundreds of people to stack a public meeting or volunteer for a campaign and never bothered to do anything to inhibit the dangerous cult operating in his city.

    “Instead, he aided and abetted a homicidal maniac. It wasn’t just local hacks Jones commanded respect from. He held court with future first lady Rosalynn Carter, vice presidential candidate Walter Mondale and California Governor Jerry Brown.

    “The guy who killed more African-Americans than the Ku Klux Klan was awarded a Martin Luther King Jr. humanitarian award and won the plaudits of California Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, State Assemblyman Willie Brown, radical academic Angela Davis, preacher/politician Jesse Jackson, Black Panther leader Huey Newton and other African-American activists.”

San Francisco homosexual activist Michael Bellfountaine of Act-Up/SF – who in May of 2007 died of complications from HIV – wrote the following:

“Harvey Milk’s name appears throughout San Francisco. A municipal railway station and plaza, a park and recreation building and one of the city’s most influential political clubs are all named in his memory. A local elementary school is known as the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, and the Eureka Valley Library is now called the Harvey Milk Branch. The theme for this year’s Gay Pride Parade was ‘Give Them Hope,’ Milk’s inspirational rally cry from gays and lesbians in San Francisco to their brothers and sisters living in rural America. The International Gay and Lesbian Historical Society is producing an extensive exhibit of Milk memorabilia, which includes the blood-stained suit he was wearing when he and Mayor George Moscone were gunned down in San Francisco City Hall on November 27, 1978. Twenty-five years after his murder, Harvey Milk has been catapulted to the level of gay martyr. Without question, he has left his mark on San Francisco. Despite all the exhibits and memorials of Harvey Milk throughout San Francisco, though, none of them acknowledges Milk’s relationship with Jim Jones and Peoples Temple … the gay historical society’s exhibit is titled ‘Saint Harvey.'”

Bellfountaine went on to note that after Milk and Mayor Moscone were killed, in the aftermath of their murders all mention of connections between Milk, Moscone and Jones were intentionally obscured. Out of respect for the politicians, their followers took all necessary steps to sever Milk and Moscone from the pariah Jim Jones.

On closer inspection, however, it is clear that Harvey Milk was a strong advocate for Peoples Temple and Jim Jones during his political career, including the tumultuous year leading up to the Jonestown tragedy. Milk spoke at the Temple often, wrote personal letters to Jim Jones, contacted other elected officials on the Temples’ behalf and used space in his weekly column to support the works of the Temple, even after the negative New West article went to press. Milk appeared in the pages of the Peoples Forum, the Temple newspaper, and received over 50 letters of sympathy from residents of Jonestown when his lover, Jack Lira, killed himself in September 1978.

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