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 1:00 AM ET

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

These revelations once
again remind us that empathy for the dignity of gay people does
not always fall along partisan political lines. Whereas Barry
Goldwater, one of the crucial figures in the birth of the
conservative movement, could have easily exploited the Jenkins
scandal in the presidential campaign, he refused to discuss it.
In his memoir Goldwater wrote, "It was a sad time for Jenkins
and his family. Winning isn't everything. Some things, like
loyalty to friends, or lasting principle, are more
important."

Goldwater, today
remembered by most liberals as a fire-breathing Neanderthal,
later became an outspoken opponent of the ban on gays in the
military.

Contrast Goldwater's
behavior to that of Moyers, who abused his power in office to
hunt down and expose the gays in his midst. (Here it should be
noted that rooting out gays in government wasn't the only dirty
task Moyers conducted while working in the Johnson White House.
He also oversaw the FBI's wiretapping of Martin Luther King and
successfully prevented the civil rights activist from
challenging Mississippi's all-white delegation to the
Democratic National Convention in 1964. "You know you have
only to call on us when a similar situation arises," he
encouraged the FBI agent in charge of the domestic
espionage.)

To be sure, Moyers's
behavior at the time took place within a social milieu far more
repressive than today's. It wasn't until 1973, after all, that
the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from
its list of disorders. Gays were banned from working in the
federal civil service until 1975. And gays were barred from
having security clearances, amazingly, until 1995. That Moyers
engaged in Nixonian dirty tricks with the aim of embarrassing
and ruining the careers of gay people, while despicable, was
something that many officials in his position probably would
have done, given the mores of the era.

But what makes Moyers's
contemptible behavior relevant is that even to this day he has
yet to acknowledge wrongdoing, never mind apologize. That
Moyers has since become a supporter of gay rights is
irrelevant. None of that erases the fact that he used his power
as a senior White House official to pry into the private lives
of his own colleagues.

Today, he has the gall
to excoriate other public figures and lecture the rest of us on
virtue. After leaving government, Moyers became a journalist
and subsequently produced PBS documentaries excoriating Richard
Nixon over Watergate and Ronald Reagan over Iran-Contra. In the
early 1990s, his star was so high and his reputation so
pristine that he publicly considered running for president. His
sanctimony rivals that of the pope.

Tags: Politics

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