LGBTQ History

New unearthed audio shows Dan White confessing to murdering Harvey Milk

New unearthed audio shows Dan White confessing to murdering Harvey Milk
In this April 1977 file photo, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, left, and Mayor George Moscone are shown in the mayor's office during the signing of the city's gay rights bill.

Audio from part of the police’s interrogation of Dan White the same day he murdered San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone has become publicly available.

During the nearly 25 minutes of audio captured at the end of White’s interrogation, the former city supervisor admitted to killing the two politicians after Moscone refused to re-appoint him to the seat he resigned from just 17 days prior. He also explained the stress and his mental states at the time of the shootings.

Related: Tucker Carlson outed as a fan of gay icon Harvey Milk’s killer

White shot and killed Moscone in his office at city hall and then Milk in White’s former office on November 28, 1978. He escaped the building by the time Milk’s and Moscone’s bodies were found.

White then went to a diner and called his wife, asking to meet her at a nearby church. She did, and he told her what he had done. They went to the police precinct where White formerly worked, and he turned himself in to his former colleagues.

The uncovered audio is at the end of his interrogation with investigators, where they ask him to reiterate his confession and his motives for killing the two.

White complained that when he talked to Moscone, he refused to re-appoint him and admitted he wasn’t going to tell White of his decision.

“He told me that I would have to show some support from the people of District 8 if I was going to be re-appointed. I could see the game that was being played, they were going to use me as a scapegoat, [and] whether I was a good supervisor or not, was not the point,” White told the detectives. “This was a political opportunity and they were going to degrade me and my family and the job that I had tried to do and, and more or less hang me out to dry.”

Moscone told White, “He had some, he told me he had a press conference scheduled and he was going to announce it at the press conference.”

White was appalled that Moscone “didn’t even have the courtesy to call me or tell me that I wasn’t go­ing to be reappointed. Then… I got kind of fuzzy and then just my head didn’t feel right and… then he said, ‘let’s go into the, the back room and have a drink and talk about it.'”

White then describes “like a roaring in my ears” and that is when he shoots Moscone. He then reloads (“out of instinct… you know, it’s just the training I guess I had”) and leaves when he sees Milk’s aide, and then decides to pay the supervisor a visit.

“I was going to go down the stairs and then I saw Harvey Milk’s aide across the hall at the Supervisors an then it struck me about what Harvey had tried to do an I said, well I’ll go talk to him,” White said. “I said, you know, at least maybe he’ll be honest with me, you know, because he didn’t know I had, I had heard his conversation and he was all smiles and stuff and I went in… and just try to explain to him, you know, I, I didn’t agree with him on a lot of things but I was always honest, you know?”

He then claimed that Milk, like Moscone, was being “devious and started kind of smirking cause he knew, he knew that I wasn’t going to be reappointed,” and he asked Milk into a private area where White’s office once was.

“Then I just got all flushed and hot and… I shot him,” he told detectives.

White claimed, “I never really intended to hurt anybody. It’s just this past several months, it got to the point I couldn’t take it and I never wanted the job for ego or you know, perpetuate myself or anything like that. I was just trying to do a good job for the city.”

At his trial, White infamously used the “Twinkie Defense,” saying that he had fallen into a deep depression after losing his seat on the board and had started eating sugary food before he went on his killing spree. A jury found White guilty of voluntary manslaughter instead of murder based on the outlandish defense; he served five years in prison for the murders.

According to Back2Stonewall, Mike Weiss obtained the audio while researching for the book Double Play about the assassinations. Weiss then gave the audiotape to Randy Shilts, who was writing his biography on Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street.

It was then received by the San Francisco Public Library History Center where it remains archived. It first became available online in 2014, uploaded to Soundcloud by historian Michael Petrelis, who has a copy of it on CD.

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