Letters: Foley, Precisionist, and Cleaning Graves

Melissa Block and Michele Norris read letters from listeners about Mark Foley, the former member of Congress who sent inappropriate emails to Congressional pages, specifically our interview with Paul Weyrich. There are also letters about Precisionist, the champion race horse put down last month at the age of 25; the proper way to clean gravestones; and people who live in towers as fire lookouts.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

It's Thursday, the day we read from listener e-mails, and our inbox is full of responses to our coverage of Mark Foley, the former member of Congress who sent inappropriate notes to Congressional pages. The vast majority of the e-mails were about my interview yesterday with conservative activist Paul Weyrich. He had called for Speaker Dennis Hastert to step down, but after a phone call Weyrich changed his mind.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Most of the e-mails we got were focused on this one thing Paul Weyrich said.

PAUL WEYRICH: Here's the real problem. It has been known for many years that Congressman Foley was a homosexual. Homosexuals tend to be preoccupied with sex.

BLOCK: Well, we had many, many e-mails taking exception to this statement. Here's one from Douglas Balois(ph) of Wetumka, Alabama. "If Mr. Weyrich wants to be heard on national radio making such blanket statements about gays, maybe he should round out his insults with sound bites such as all women are preoccupied with shopping for shoes or all straight men are obsessed with rabbit hunting. Instead of worrying about how the Foley affair may undermine America's confidence in conservative politics, maybe Paul Weyrich should resign his post, or at least hide under a blanket."

NORRIS: Linda Hammond of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, was happy that I told Mr. Weyrich that there are quite a few people who would take exception to the statement. Ms. Hammond wrote, "Thank you for calling Mr. Weyrich on his comment about gay people being preoccupied with sex. What an ignorant remark on his part!"

BLOCK: But David Tidmore of Allen, Texas, was even more unhappy with the interview. Here's what his e-mail said. "I am not totally sure if I was more offended by Mr. Weyrich's statements or the fact that NPR aired them. His statement about gay Americans had nothing to do with his position on the Foley affair. Shame on NPR for providing Mr. Weyrich a national platform to air his bigotry."

NORRIS: Several people wrote in with their appreciation for Noah Adams's story about Precisionist, the champion racehorse put down last month at the age of 25. The e-mail sent by Marlee Henry(ph) of Old Lime, Connecticut, was typical. "Thank you for the wonderful story about this elder horse with a great history. I admire the courage of the vets and the owners, and they did the right thing."

BLOCK: Finally, two letters about labors of love. We profiled Isla Estabrook, who has taken it upon herself to clean the old gravestones of South Buxton Cemetery in Bar Mills, Maine.

NORRIS: Theresa Burghoff(ph) of Indianapolis was one of several people who had similar response to her story. She writes, "While I commend Isla Estabrook for her dedication and hard work in cleaning the tombstones, I fear she is harming them by using a putty knife and bleach. Tombstones should only be cleaned with a plastic scraper, nylon or natural bristle brush and a solution of four parts water and one part clear household ammonia."

BLOCK: And we spoke with Jeanne Duhem, who spends her summers alone in a tower in the El Dorado National Forest looking out for forest fires. Her story struck a chord with Elizabeth McLaughlin of Akron, Ohio. Her note said, "Thank you for your story on fire towers. Long ago, my father was a forest ranger in Northern Michigan. I'm 53 now, but was probably four or five years old when I climbed the ladders up and up to see where my daddy worked. I still remember feeling the tower sway in the wind."

NORRIS: We'd like to hear from you. To write to us, go to NPR.org and click Contact Us at the top of the page.

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