Bill Moyers, Gay-Baiter

Before he became the self-righteous scold of the liberal television commentariat, Moyers served as a special assistant to Lyndon Johnson, during which time he ordered investigations to expose gays.

BY James Kirchick

February 25 2009 12:00 AM ET

Being a homosexual in
America in 1964 was not easy, and one of the more difficult
places to be one was Washington, D.C. While the nation's
capital has long since become the setting for some of the most
important gay rights battles (and home to a vibrant gay scene),
it was also the site of routine antigay witch hunts. At the
time, gays were officially barred from working in government
and their livelihood depended on the secreting of their
sexuality. Indeed, the mere suspicion of homosexuality could
get a person fired, and the consequences of losing one's job
due to what was then known as a "morals charge" were
long-lasting.

It's in this context
that recent revelations about Bill Moyers are so disturbing.
Before he became the self-righteous scold of the liberal
television commentariat, Moyers served as a special assistant
to Democratic president Lyndon Johnson. This was at the height
of J. Edgar Hoover's reign over the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, during which time the FBI
director spied on a vast array of public and private
citizens in order to gather information for potential
blackmail.

According to documents
obtained last week by
TheWashington Post

through a Freedom of Information Act request, one of these
individuals was former Johnson aide Jack Valenti, later head of
the Motion Picture Association of America. Hoover, according to
the
Post

, was "consumed" by the question of whether Valenti was
gay, and deployed his agents to investigate the man's sex
life.

They turned up
nothing.

Valenti, however, was
not the only White House official to be investigated by the FBI
for suspected homosexuality. In late 1964, just weeks before
the presidential election, senior White House adviser Walter
Jenkins was arrested in a YMCA men's room for performing oral
sex on another man. Under extreme mental duress, Jenkins
checked into a hospital and resigned his position. Moyers
wasted no time in trying to discover how much more potential
trouble the Johnson administration might have with gays in its
midst, and went out of his way to ask Hoover's FBI to
investigate two other administration officials "suspected as
having homosexual tendencies," according to the recently
released documents.

In an e-mail response
to an article written by Slate's Jack Shafer, Moyers complains
about Hoover, but does not bother to address the matter of his
ordering the FBI to snoop on his colleagues.

Tags: Politics

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