More on Moyers—plus J. Edgar Hoover on how to spot a homosexual.

Media criticism.
Feb. 23 2009 6:05 PM

More on Moyers

Plus, J. Edgar Hoover on how to spot a homosexual.

(Continued from Page 1)

What we do know from the tapes was that Hoover thought he had flawless gaydar. Beschloss writes that Hoover believed, based on a report from liberal columnist Drew Pearson, that the Republicans were about to drop a "bombshell" on a Johnson administration official on Oct. 31, a bit of intelligence that he had passed along to Johnson. On the morning of Oct. 31, Johnson telephoned Hoover for new gossip, and the conversation ambled toward a Navy employee.

LBJ: … They raised the question of the way he combed his hair and the way he did something else, but they had no act of his. …

Hoover: It's just … that his mannerisms … were suspicious.

LBJ: Yeah, he worked for me for four or five years, but he wasn't even suspicious to me. I guess you are going to have to teach me something about this stuff. … I swear I can't recognize them. I don't know anything about them.

Hoover: It's a thing that you can't tell sometimes. Just like in the case of the poor fellow Jenkins. … There are some people who walk kind of funny. That you might kind of think a little bit off or maybe queer. But there was no indication of that in the Jenkins case.

Advertisement

(Again, all punctuation in the original.) Beschloss writes in a note that Johnson was having fun at Hoover's expense: "LBJ knew full well the rumors that Hoover was a secret homosexual."

To fully refresh Moyers' memory, I direct his attention to a 2005 Journal op-ed by Laurence H. Silberman (cited in a Saturday Wall Street Journal editorial). Silberman, who was acting attorney general in 1975, read Hoover's secret files before testifying before Congress. He writes:

… Bill Moyers, was tasked to direct Hoover to do an investigation of Goldwater's staff to find similar evidence of homosexual activity. Mr. Moyers' memo to the FBI was in one of the files.

When the press reported this, I received a call in my office from Mr. Moyers. Several of my assistants were with me. He was outraged; he claimed that this was another example of the Bureau salting its files with phony CIA memos. I was taken aback. I offered to conduct an investigation, which if his contention was correct, would lead me to publicly exonerate him. There was a pause on the line and then he said, "I was very young. How will I explain this to my children?"

How will Moyers explain it to his children? By setting aside a chapter in his big, forthcoming Lyndon Johnson book.

******

In 1964 when Walter Jenkins got busted, homosexuals were considered security risks because, the reasoning went, they could be blackmailed easily. Of course, they could be blackmailed only because of social and professional views on homosexuality. For instance, until 1973 the American Psychiatric Association regarded homosexuality as a mental disorder. So my beef with Moyers isn't what he did in the mid-1960s but his refusal to acknowledge in a straightforward manner what he did. Send additional Moyers news to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Track my errors: This hand-built RSS feed will ring every time Slateruns a "Press Box" correction. For e-mail notification of errors in this specific column, type the words Moyers Two in the subject head of an e-mail message, and send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.