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.

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(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.

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