Hope’s joke about the situation follows:
"There was an early chill in Florida and all of Anita's pansies froze"
It puts Anita and a less than flattering term for gay men in the same sentence, and that’s about all you can say for it. But then so do a lot of these Anita Bryant gags. Not exactly one for the ages.
Hope and Bryant had history, performing together in converts on various occasions in previous years. However, rather than keep quiet, Hope chose to criticise her in an interview in “The National Enquirer” in July 1977: “Bob Hope: Why I Don't Agree with the War on Homosexuals.” His first major statement on the issue was a conservative endorsement of gay right:, that sexuality (what goes on behind closed doors) should not be subject to prejudice a la Bryant’s Dade County motion.
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In a later article syndicated in April 1978, it was obvious that Bryant’s supporters had taken offense at Hope, and led a successful campaign using boycott tactics. They cut up credit cards of Hope’s sponsor, Texaco. The company asked Hope to stop telling Bryant jokes and he agreed. Which again ties in cicely with Buchwald’s observations about the problems resulting from political opinions by commercial spokespeople.
On the other hand, gay men weren’t big fans of his “pansies” line either, as papers reported that one time at an appearance in Florida the gays protested so much he dropped the line