The closeted Roy Cohn called him less a homosexual and more a “voyeur,” getting his jollies by listening the sex tapes of political leaders he acquired through FBI wiretaps. Oliver Stone disagreed, having him in his laughable Nixon (1995) practically french-kissing the help. The wife of a mobster provided information of him in drag in a hotel room with Cohn present:
“[He was] wearing a fluffy black dress, very fluffy, with flounces, and lace stockings and high heels, and a black curly wig. He had make-up on and false eyelashes. It was a very short skirt, and he was sitting there in the living room of the suite with his legs crossed. Roy introduced him to me as ‘Mary'”.
Why, in our age of gay tolerance, does it matter whether the above-mentioned FBI director J.Edgar Hoover was gay? After all, shouldn’t right-wingers be allowed the same orientation?
The easy answer lies in Hoover’s behavior to those he might have shared an orientation with. A lifelong bachelor who lived with his assistant Clyde Tolson, Hoover persecuted possible homosexuals in the federal government with as much zeal as he waged against “Communists.”
Historians have long known about Hoover’s pursuit of homosexuals, or in his words “sex deviates,” but a memo obtained by Charles Francis, a personal friend of George W. Bush, reveals that these “sweeps” were much more extensive than originally thought. The following was a memo dated June 20, 1951, addressed to 40 top FBI officials:
“Each supervisor will be held personally responsible to underline in green pencil the names of individuals . . . who are alleged to be sex deviates,” Hoover wrote.
By the 1970s, the FBI had collected 360,000 files on gays and lesbians in the federal government. Dates and places of their “acts” were included in the files. From police reports and “individual complaints,” agents collected names of these “unsuitable,” “unstable” “security risks.”
Hoover collected dirt on presidents, of course, but also on their circle of aides and advisers. He wielded considerable power in quashing federal appointments. A case in point was Arthur Vandenburg Jr. President Dwight Eisenhower had hired him to be his appointments secretary but changed his mind on meeting with Hoover and viewing the files.
But Hoover wielded his FBI at those who accused him of the same proclivities. A federal employee who was overheard in a Washington bakery wondering aloud whether “the director is a queer” was immediately investigated. Hoover reacted quickly, authorizing a full-scale interrogation. The interrogation was so harsh that the employee, “badly frightened,” agreed never to repeat the remark.
Whatever his own orientation, Hoover exhibited hateful prejudices that, in light of other’s testimony, could have been a form of self-loathing and overcompensation.