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Contentions

The Real Bill Moyers

In today’s Washington Post, we learn that “J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI found itself quietly consumed with the vexing question of whether [Lyndon Johnson aide Jack] Valenti was gay.” According to the article, “the files, obtained by The Washington Post under the federal Freedom of Information Act, provide further insight into the conduct of the FBI under Hoover, for whom damaging personal information on the powerful was a useful tool in his interactions with presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Richard M. Nixon.”

What I found particularly interesting was this paragraph:

Even Bill Moyers, a White House aide now best known as a liberal television commentator, is described in the records as seeking information on the sexual preferences of White House staff members. Moyers said by e-mail yesterday 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.

And this:

Seven days later, DeLoach [Hoover lieutenant Cartha D. DeLoach] pressed Johnson again and he relented. In the same conversation, a memo shows, they discussed a request from Moyers, then a special assistant to Johnson, that the FBI investigate two other administration figures who were “suspected as having homosexual tendencies.”

Well, now. For the unaware, Mr. Moyers was a key figure in the creation of the notorious “Daisy” ad, dubbed by the New York Times at the time as “probably the most controversial TV commercial of all time.” The ad featured a young girl plucking daisy petals as a countdown leads to her annihilation in a nuclear blast. The message was clear: this was the fate of the earth if Barry Goldwater were elected. Beyond that is the fact that, as Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard showed in a 2003 article, Bill Moyers, during his career at PBS,

flagrantly indulges in the same conflicts of interest, Washington logrolling, and mutual back-scratching that he finds deeply objectionable in, well, everyone other than Bill Moyers. There were piles of documents–from IRS filings to internal records from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting–that supported this conclusion.

Moyers is among the most sanctimonious individuals on television (quite a feat, given the competition). He presents himself as a champion of good government, an intrepid voice for integrity and honesty, ever on the lookout for people who would degrade our public discourse or act in a dishonorable manner. That’s why this revelation — Moyers seeking information on the sexual preferences of White House staff members — is particularly notable. And I suspect his excuse, that his “memory is unclear after so many years,” probably wouldn’t persuade Moyers himself, if the person in question were, say, a conservative.

The persona of Bill Moyers is very much at odds with his conduct over the years. This latest revelation deserves to be explored more fully.



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