Did Bill Moyers Lead a Gay Witch Hunt?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

bmoyers

The Washington Post reports back in 1964, J. Edgar “Maggie” Hoover’s FBI found itself quietly consumed with the burning question of whether Beltway insider Jack Valenti was gay. But did the liberal PBS darling, Bill Moyers, request similar probes?

A newly-released cache of FBI documents reveals the bureau investigated the matter following a bizarre 1964 tip from a caller who claimed Valenti “read in the newspapers that Valenti swims in the nude in the White House pool.” The investigation found Valenti was friends with a gay photographer in Houston, leading to rumors he himself was gay. The bureau found no proof of this and the case was closed.

It’s harder to draw conclusions about PBS sacred cow and the host of Bill Moyers Journal.

The same FBI documents show Moyers, then a special assistant to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, requested the bureau “investigate two other administration figures who were ‘suspected as having homosexual tendencies.'”

Moyers told the Post via e-mail that his memory is unclear after so many years but that he may have been simply looking for details of allegations first brought to the president by Hoover.

At the ripe old age of 74, Bill Moyers, will probably be forgiven by his fans for trying to protect a pro-civil rights president against a then-lethal associations with gays. However, it might be harder for them to understand such a selective memory as Moyers continues to work as a journalist even if he can’t remember his own homophobic behavior.

This entry was posted in Homophobes, LGBT, Media, News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Did Bill Moyers Lead a Gay Witch Hunt?

  1. feminazi says:

    Christopher – How do you manage to unearth this stuff? While other bloggers are wasting bandwidth on the OctoMom, you blog about politics and our paper tigers and carry out true, investigative citizen journalism. I was alive in 1964 and I did not know this about Bill Moyers. I think he needs to stop playing forget-me-not and come clean.

  2. My letter to Bill Moyers at Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. I will be tracking the site to see if me letter is deleted by his handlers:

    Dear Mr. Bill Moyers,

    A newly-released cache of FBI documents published in the Washington Post reveals that you led a gay witch hunt while working as a special assistant to President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

    According to the documents, you requested the bureau “investigate two other administration figures who were ’suspected as having homosexual tendencies.’”

    The Post reports that via an e-mail, you said your memory is unclear after so many years but that you may have been simply looking for details of allegations first brought to the president by Hoover.

    Curious.

    I realize at the ripe old age of 74, all will probably be forgiven by your fans for trying to protect a pro-civil rights president against a then-lethal associations with gays. However, it might be harder to understand such a selective memory as you continue to work as a journalist even if you can’t remember your own homophobic behavior.

    As this news stories develops and shoots across the blogoshere, it might become important to your fans if you try to recall the details of this matter and clear up any details the Washington Post got wrong.

    Regards,

    Christopher di Spirito

    Editors Note: Here is the link to Bill Moyers Journal at PBS where we can track the status of my letter.

    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog/2009/02/bill_moyers_answers_questions.html

  3. VicoDANIEL says:

    This is explosive stuff.

    I’m certain people will try to explain Moyers’ behavior away with, “it was a different time, then.”

    The habit of throwing the gays under the bus has been going on for decades. Some in Hollywood were better and refused but Washington has always been populated with cowards.

    My guess is, Moyers’ PBS handler will delete your email. Moyers is one of their cash cows and they don’t want anyone making him look less sainted.

    vicodaniel1987@yahoo.com

  4. Peace Nick says:

    Wow. This is very surprising and disappointing.

    I always thought Bill Moyers was a champion of civil rights and freedoms for all Americans from the beginning of his career.

    Who knew he was a vicious homophobe when he worked for Johnson? Oh well, another one bites the dust.

  5. Brigadoon says:

    This is a stunning revelation. Siccing the FBI on people for being gay is appalling. If Moyers wishes there were a way to repair his behavior more thoroughly, then he needs to stop hiding behind a faulty memory. Sorry pal, but I’m not buying it.

  6. Mets Fan says:

    Amazing work, Christopher. Great letter, too.

    I bet PBS takes it down. Revealing such a thing about one of their sacred cows just can’t be allowed to happen. Moyers will be protected by PBS and his loyalists will circle the wagons around him.

  7. Woodcliffe says:

    Times were different in the 1960’s but so what?

    People of courage and principle, such of those in Hollywood who stood up to McCarthy and refused to name names and those who stood by Dr. Martin Luther King, intuitively knew their cause was moral and just.

    If Moyers indeed requested the FBI “investigate two other administration figures who were ’suspected as having homosexual tendencies,’” then he is neither moral or just and he should retire.

  8. emcee says:

    And we’re off and running………………….

    Who said the post-Obama blogoshere had become dull and uninteresting? Not here.

  9. Idaho Librul says:

    This is a prime example of why I’m not nostalgic for the 60’s. My parents long for the 60’s. It drives me crazy.

    I like the music and the romance that goes along with the social changes but the discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation would have been intolerable.

    Let’s hope Moyers learned and evolved but as others have said, he needs to address this and not wimp out behind a poor memory. Not if he wants to have credibility among people on the left like me.

  10. taco says:

    Who said the post-Obama blogoshere had become dull and uninteresting? Not here.

    You’re right. There’s never a dull moment here.

  11. Estacada says:

    I didn’t know Bill Moyers had worked for LBJ.

    While I think people are capable of growing and evolving as a result of life experiences, Moyers is still a public figure and he’s a symbol to the political left.

    He needs to step-up and address his past and not pull a Reagan and say he can’t recall.

  12. libhomo says:

    I wonder what his record on queer issues is now.

    Nancy Pelosi gay baited her way into Congress in the 80s and still is as heterosexist today.

    Does Moyers’ past behavior have parallels in what he does today?

  13. Adirondacky says:

    I was over at the Dem Underground earlier and they have this up too but their attention completely ignores Bill Moyers role in a “gay witch hunt” and focuses instead on Jack Valenti. Talk about selective blogging. If you don’t actually take the time to read the WP report, you wouldn’t even know about Moyers.

  14. JollyRoger says:

    I don’t want to sound like I am excusing the guy, but….. it is true. Times were far different then. Homosexuality was still on the books as a mental aberration. Until Stonewall, most people weren’t willing to open their minds to the possibility that you don’t get to decide who you love.

    As a child in the schools (and culture) of the 1970s, I can say that things opened up very, very slowly-Beverly LaSalle, a gay cop on Barney Miller, Elton John…. I would like to hear from Moyers as to what his personal beliefs were informed by before I cast a vote on whether or not he is a dedicated bigot.

  15. Teen LaQueeffa says:

    Even the perfectly inept John McCain said he regretted not voting ‘FOR’ the creation of the Martin Luther King national holiday.

    People can change. Sometimes for the better. As a person who commands the respect of the liberal and progressive communities, Bill Moyers needs to issue a statement taking responsibility for his behavior and not pooh-pooh it away and blame a fading memory.

  16. Mauigirl says:

    I agree with Jolly Roger that he may have evolved his opinion, but as others have said, he must remember more than he’s saying and he’d be better off just admitting he has changed his feelings in this regard than pretending not to know.

  17. Aunt Peg says:

    Christopher – Thank you for the comment policy.

    After the science post I’ve been flying under the radar, not feeling comfortable posting here. I’m confident this will do the trick.

  18. Conejo1982 says:

    I checked the PBS link and so far, Moyers hasn’t addressed your inquiry.

    Thanks for writing to him. Let’s see how it handles it.

  19. PeeJ says:

    While this story is getting lots of play it really should be old news. Moyers publically recounted his role in the affair before the Church committee in 1975. That, btw, was where FISA was born. He said then that he was instructed by his boss, President Johnson, to ask Hoover to find dirt on people in Goldwater’s campaign. This was after LBJ became worried that Goldwater would use the Jenkins “scandal” in the campaign.

    from the wiki:————————-
    After the resignation of Walter Jenkins because of a sexual misdemeanour in the run-up to the 1964 election, President Lyndon B. Johnson, alarmed that the opposition was framing the issue as a security breach,[3] ordered Moyers to request FBI name checks on 15 members of Goldwater’s staff to find “derogatory” material on their personal lives.[4][5] Goldwater himself only referred to the Jenkins incident off the record.[6] The Church Committee stated in 1975 that “Moyers has publicly recounted his role in the incident, and his account is confirmed by FBI documents.”[7] In 2005, Laurence Silberman claimed that Moyers denied writing the memo in a 1975 phone call.[8] Moyers said he had a different recollection of the telephone conversation.[9]

    Moyers, acting for Johnson, also sought information from the FBI on the sexual preferences of White House staff members, most notably Jack Valenti.[10] Moyers indicated his memory was unclear on why Johnson directed him to request such information, “but that he may have been simply looking for details of allegations first brought to the president by Hoover.” [11]

    In The New York Times on April 3, 1966, Moyers offered this insight on his stint as press secretary to President Johnson: “I work for him despite his faults and he lets me work for him despite my deficiencies.”[12][13] The details of his rift with Johnson have not been made public, but may be discussed in a forthcoming memoir.[14]
    ——————————-

    Yes, it was a bad thing. But for anyone who lived through the times – as I did as a young gay man – understands that the world was a very different place back then.

    Bill Moyers has been a very visible and vocal advocate for gay equality for many many years. This one event, forty+ Years ago, by a much younger Bill Moyers, at the behest of the POTUS seems like a very small anthill next to his record of the last sevral decades. Whatever he thought about it at the time, it is clear that he is our friend.

    The world has changed, he has changed, I’m sure he has changed over the decades. Ask yourselves this: What has he done for/to us lately?

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