FBI and Homosexuality: 1970-1979

“with the [Nixon] administration increasingly under siege by critics of the Vietnam War, President Nixon’s White House aide H.R. Haldeman asked Hoover for a list of Washington reporters who were homosexual, and the FBI was able to oblige within forty-eight hours.

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones (2007) p. 159. Research request: full citation?

1970, January 1
Photo: Life Magazine. Caption: "(L-R) FBI dir. J. Edgar Hoover and his asst. Clyde Tolson looking at menus in the Mayflower Hotel where they lunched together each workday for 40 years." [Looking pained; identical pepper grinders; identical suits.]

Time Life Pictures/Pictures/Getty Images, Jan 01, 1970. Accessed September 7, 2015 from http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/dir-j-edgar-hoover-and-his-asst-clyde-tolson-looking-at-news-photo/50613576

1970, February
Serrano, Richard A. Serrano, "An FBI director with a grudge". Los Angeles Times, November 6, 2011, 8:03 p.m.   http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-hoover-nelson-20111107,0,6943487,full.story

The longtime FBI director was convinced that Los Angeles Times reporter Jack Nelson planned to write that he was homosexual.

In February 1970, a top aide to President Nixon [Clark R. Mollenhoff] warned J. Edgar Hoover that a new reporter in town, Jack Nelson, was said to be gunning for the FBI.

For two years in the early 1970s, Hoover nursed an obsession with the new reporter in the nation's capital.

FBI records released recently under the Freedom of Information Act reveal, for the first time, what fueled his fixation: Hoover was convinced — mistakenly — that Nelson planned to write that the FBI director was homosexual.

There is no indication Nelson had any interest in the subject, and he never wrote about it. Nevertheless, he became the focus of Hoover's anxieties.

John Fox, the FBI's in-house historian, said Nelson arrived on the scene at a time when Hoover was feeling vulnerable. A published report that the director was gay could well have ended his career, and that possibility — unfounded or not — had Hoover on edge. "He saw it as an attack on his manhood," Fox said.

The newly released records show that Clark R. Mollenhoff, a former Washington reporter and columnist who was then special counsel to Nixon, wrote Hoover on White House stationery that Nelson was planning another "highly critical series of stories on the FBI."

In June 1970, a reporter for an Alabama newspaper told agents that Nelson had been sent to Washington to write "derogatory" articles about Hoover. The reporter, whose name was redacted, told the FBI that at a conference in Cambridge, Mass., a drunken Nelson had "indicated he had a statement from somebody in the 'Department' stating that Mr. Hoover was a 'homosexual' and that he was planning to use this information in the article," according to an FBI memo.

By January 1971, Hoover was sufficiently concerned about Nelson's intentions that he brought the matter up with Atty. Gen. John Mitchell, his boss. "We have received several recent reports reflecting extensive efforts on his part to embarrass the FBI and me," Hoover wrote.

In a second letter to Mitchell that month, Hoover said Nelson drank excessively and had boasted of his intention to write "that I am a homosexual."

Hoover continued: "While I have no reluctance to stand on my record and to let the facts of both my personal and official life speak for themselves, I nonetheless wanted you to have this background information regarding stories that should soon appear."

The effort was unsuccessful, and two weeks later [Dave] Kraslow [the Washington Bureau Manager of the LA Times] sat down with the director. In a recent interview, Kraslow, now 85, said Hoover complained bitterly about Nelson's supposed plan to identify him as a homosexual.

"The spittle was running out of his lips and the corners of his mouth," Kraslow said. "He was out of control."

In a written account of the meeting from 1971, Kraslow said Hoover had threatened to sue Nelson for criminal libel "should such a lie ever appear in print," and "he was careful to point out it was not intended as a threat, but as a promise."

"I defied him to produce any informant who would stare me in the face or who would stare Jack Nelson in the face and say that Jack Nelson had on any occasion intimated that Hoover was a homosexual," Kraslow wrote.

Kraslow refused to fire Nelson. Rather, he asked his reporter to write a rebuttal, which was sent to Hoover.

"I emphatically deny that I have at any time under any circumstances ever said or remotely suggested that Mr. Hoover was a homosexual," Nelson wrote on Oct. 19, 1971.

1970, June 4
Gore Vidal in The New York Review of Books:

Homosexuals seldom settle down to cozy mature domesticity for an excellent reason: society forbids it. Two government workers living together in Washington D.C., would very soon find themselves unemployed. They would be spied on, denounced secretly, and dismissed. Only a bachelor entirely above suspicion like J. Edgar Hoover can afford to live openly with another man. It is a nice joke if a Louisiana judge is caught in a motel with a call girl. It is a major tragedy if a government official with a family is caught in a men's room. Although Hoover and Tolson were sometimes perceived as living together, they each had their own homes.

Gore Vidal, "Doc Reuben," The New York Review of Books, June 4, 1970.

 1970, August 15
The FBI…tried to discredit Black Panther leader Huey Newton after he publicly supported gay liberation in a speech on August 15, 1970. It faked letters from supposed members questioning Newton’s masculinity.

Haggerty, George E., ed. "U.S. Government Surveillance" pp 109-110, in Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia, Volume 2. page 909 See: http://books.google.com/

1971, October 19: Jack Nelson
“I emphatically deny that I have at any time under any circumstances ever said or remotely suggested that Mr. Hoover was a homosexual,” [reporter Jack] Nelson wrote [to Hoover] on Oct. 19, 1971.

For full story see: Serrano, Richard A. Serrano, "An FBI director with a grudge". Los Angeles Times, November 6, 2011, 8:03 p.m. (on this list), and "Hoover worried"

1972, January 1
Nash, Jay Robert. Citizen Hoover: A Critical Study of the Life and Times of J. Edgar Hoover and His FBI.

Reearch request: Place of pub, Publisher? What does this say about Hoover's view of criminal women; his "mincing" step, homosexuality, etc.?

1972, May 4
Photo: Caption:Clyde A. Tolson, Associate Director of the FBI, is helped to his car, after attending burial of his life-long friend, J. Edgar Hoover, in the Congressional Cemetery. Shortly thereafter, Tolson submitted his resignation, citing "ill health." Tolson is a native of Laredo, Montana.

Corbis Images: Stock Photo ID: U1738097. Date Photographed: May 4, 1972

1973, April 10
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt reviews J. Edgar Hoover: The Man in His Time by Ralph de Toledano: The author of this book says that Hoover was not a homosexual and not "a womanizer", "reducing the debate over Hoover's sexual preferences to something of a Mexican standoff." Toledano also "refuses entirely to divulge his sources, to document his claims, to footnote or to acknowledge."

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "The G-Man We Already Knew; Books of The Times Revealing Only the Familiar Sources Remain Undivulged" [review of J. EDGAR HOOVER. The Man in His Time by Ralph de Toledano. Arlington, 1973]. New York Times, page 41.

In an article asking "Is J. Edgar Hoover a Fag?" Al Goldstein, in Screw magazine, took on the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in print. Goldstein soon had to face charges in Kansas.

Research request: Full reliable citation?

Clair Potter discusses "revelations, in the 1975 Senate investigations led by Frank Church of Idaho, that the CIA and FBI had been engaged in long-term intelligence gathering operations against its own citizens and domestic political groups."

Potter, "Queer" (2006), page 381. Research request: CIA surveillance of homosexuals?

1975, May
Obituary of Clyde Tolson in gay periodical.

"In Memorium". Gay Scene: National Homophile Monthly. Volume 5, No. 12, May 1975.

1976, November 23
The Associated Press reports that a substantial number of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's "Official and Confidential" files dealt with allegations that certain politians, prominent figures, and govenrment employees were homosexual. The files also contained memorandums to Hoover informing him of people who had charged that he was homosexual.

FBI Admits Spying on GAA", Gay Activist [newspaper of the New York City Gay Activists Alliance], March 1977, vol. 6, no. 1, page 1.

1977, December
Larry Cohen is the writer and director of a film The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover. It stars Broderick Crawford, James Wainwright and Michael Parks. A blurb for the film says:

The files that escaped the shredder have become an incredible motion picture. From the Kennedys to Martin Luther King. From cab drivers to Congressmen. From housewives to hostesses. He had something on 58 million people. It was all in his files. Now you can see how he used it.

IMDB; Poveda and others (1998), page 291.

1977: "Sex Deviate" files destroyed
"In 1977, Bureau officials added more gaps to the paper trail by destroying the 300,000 pages in the "Sex Deviate Program."

David M. Oshinsky, "The Senior G-Man", New York Times, September 15, 1991.


1977, March
The March 1977 issue of the Gay Activist Alliance publication the Gay Activist is devoted to FBI spying on the group, includes some files received under the Freedom of Information Act.

Lead article: "FBI ADMITS SPYING ON GAA" ("As the much-touted Bicentennial drew to a close, the Gay Activists Alliance received documents under the Freedom of Information Act proving that the FBI has spied on it")

Facsimile copies of five documents on the Gay Activist Alliance received under the Freedom of Information Act; Excerpt from GAA's letter to the Attorney General appealing the FBI's partial release of documents pertaining to GAA, along with a 32-item list of documents demanded by GAA from the FBI (beginning with "The formation of GAA in December 1969"); Side bar on J. Edgar Hoover (with illustrative caricature: "The Associated Press reported Nov. 23, 1976, that a substantial number of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's 'official and confidential' files dealt with allegations that certain politicians, figures, and government employees were homosexual. The files also contained memorandums to Hoover informing him of people who at various times charged that he was homosexual." Includes: "A striking example of a pig fairy in a high place actively working as an enemy of his own kind, and in return being accepted and much appreciated by the heterosexist establishment...."

Powers, Richard Gid, “One G-Man’s Family: Popular Entertainment Formulas and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI,” American Quarterly 30, no. 4 (1978): 471–92.

1978, May
Bell, Arthur. "Skull Murphy: The Gay Double Agent". Village Voice May 1978, pages 1, 17-19.

Ed Murphy says in an interview with Bell that he (Murphy) started informing undercover for the FBI in 1965 about a national ring blackmailing homosexuals. Murphy says that J. Edgar Hoover "was one of my sisters. He was the biggest fuckin' extortionist in this country. He had presidents by the balls. He had a record on everybody and his brother." He adds: "Everything I know [about mobsters] is on file at certain law enforcement agencies for certain people who are doing investigations." (Bell, p. 17.)

"My double agent days started in '66 with the extortion ring. It was supposed to be a one-shot deal. We locked up 21 guys. They're all dead now, except three of them." (Bell, p. 19.)

David Carter says that Murphy said that the Mafia had photographs of Hoover involved in sex acts. Photographs are not mentioned in the Bell interview--JNK

Carter, Stonewall, note 3, page 285.