Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Re: The Real Bill Moyers

As Peter Wehner noted earlier, a story in today’s Washington Post on the FBI’s interest in the sexuality of LBJ aide Jack Valenti contained an illuminating tidbit about Bill Moyers, the LBJ special assistant who went on to a brief career as publisher of Newsday before inflicting himself on the nation for decades as a Pecksniffian media liberal.

Moyers, according to previously confidential FBI files, trolled for information about the private lives of his colleagues in the Johnson administration. And while this news will no doubt disillusion those who have bought into Moyers’s carefully constructed image as a paragon of politically correct virtue, it comes as something considerably less than a bolt out of the blue.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal in July 2005, Laurence Silberman recalled testifying some thirty years earlier, as U.S. deputy attorney general, to the House Judiciary Committee about recently discovered confidential files of J. Edgar Hoover that contained salacious stories about a large number of public figures.

Silberman, who described himself as deeply offended by Hoover’s dirt-collecting activities, tried to avoid offering up specifics in his testimony, but, as he put it, eventually “reporters dug out more facts” concerning some skulduggery emanating from the LBJ White House during the Johnson-Goldwater presidential campaign:

Only a few weeks before the 1964 election, a powerful presidential assistant, Walter Jenkins, was arrested in a men’s room in Washington. Evidently, the president was concerned that Barry Goldwater would use that against him in the election. Another assistant, Bill Moyers, was tasked to direct Hoover to do an investigation of Goldwater’s staff to find similar evidence of homosexual activity. Mr. Moyers’ memo to the FBI was in one of the files.

When the press reported this, I received a call in my office from Mr. Moyers. Several of my assistants were with me. He was outraged; he claimed that this was another example of the Bureau salting its files with phony CIA memos. I was taken aback. I offered to conduct an investigation, which if his contention was correct, would lead me to publicly exonerate him. There was a pause on the line and then he said, “I was very young. How will I explain this to my children?”

How indeed. As Peter noted, Moyers approved the notorious nuclear countdown ad which implied that Barry Goldwater was just itching to annihilate cute little girls as they busied themselves picking petals off flowers. No wonder Goldwater remarked years later, after Moyers had become a ubiquitous presence on the nation’s television screens, “Every time I see him, I get sick to my stomach and want to throw up.”