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J. Edgar Hoover, Sex, and Crime: An Historical Antidote [Hardcover]

Athan Theoharis
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 1995 1566630711 978-1566630719 First Edition
Was J. Edgar Hoover a homosexual? And did organized-crime leaders, knowing this, blackmail the FBI director into leaving them alone? These charges won almost instant popular acceptance when they were aired in a sensational biography of Hoover in 1993. But Athan Theoharis, the foremost authority on Hoover and the FBI, here shows that the accusations are spurious—and not nearly as intriguing as Hoover's real attitudes toward sex and organized crime. Theoharis takes apart the argument for Hoover's homosexuality, then goes on to paint a chilling portrait of a moralistic bureaucrat who would not hesitate to use sex-related information against his political enemies—when it could not be traced to FBI investigations. Theoharis explains why the FBI's ineffectiveness in pursuing organized-crime leaders stemmed from the same political priorities that gave Hoover broad authority during the cold war years to use illegal investigative techniques and to focus on political activities. Punctuating his narrative with case materials from the FBI's secret files—on presidential candidates, senators, congressmen, artists and writers, college presidents, and others—Theoharis unravels the brilliantly devious means that Hoover used to accomplish his political ends. And he shows how they contributed to a culture of lawlessness within the FBI itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of this freshly informative study addresses the late FBI director's alleged homosexuality and the rumor that the Mafia, having acquired evidence of it, blackmailed him into leaving them alone. Acknowledging the FBI's unimpressive record against organized crime and Hoover's denial that a nationwide criminal conspiracy ever existed, Theoharis establishes convincingly that the investigation of organized crime was of secondary importance to Hoover and that his priority list was dominated by the hunt for "subversives" and collecting information on the illicit sexual activities of public figures to use against them. The author examines the testimony that led to the popularization of Hoover's "homosexuality," including Susan Rosenstiel's questionable report of seeing Hoover in drag at a homosexual orgy hosted by former McCarthy aid Roy Cohn. He concludes that if Hoover was homosexual, which he doubts, he "would never have put himself in a position that publicly compromised his homosexuality." Theoharis is the author of a highly critical biography of Hoover, The Boss.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Theoharis, a leading authority on Hoover and the FBI, refutes charges in Anthony Summers's Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (Putnam, 1993) that Hoover was homosexual. The author of the incisive biography The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover & the Great American Inquisition (LJ 6/1/88), Theoharis challenges much of the unsubstantiated evidence put forth by Summers. Like Summers, the author bases much of his case upon disputable facts, commentary, and conjecture. Theoharis questions the reliability of many eyewitness accounts in Summers's book. Contrary to Summers, he believes that Hoover's failure to pursue organized crime was not due to gay blackmail but a manifestation of his obsessive interest in political power and the lack of laws to prosecute organized crime. While the jury is still out on Hoover's homosexuality, libraries should have copies of both books for an impartial presentation of the issue.
Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Lib., Ind.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; First Edition edition (January 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566630711
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566630719
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,142,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hoover Critic Debunks Summers November 24, 2003
Academic debunking of Anthony Summers' scandalous "Official and Confidential" superbly researched and written by a noted critic of J. Edgar Hoover. Summers' bestselling volume used uncorroborated gossip and hearsay to "prove" the late FBI director was a closet homosexual and transvestite blackmailed into submission by organized crime. Theoharis, author of such previous works as "From the Secret Files of J. Edgar Hoover" and "The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition", sticks to the facts and uses solid scholarship to dismiss the Summers book as baseless.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars He Only Followed Orders September 21, 2005
This book was written to deny the claims of Anthony Summers that Hoover dressed in women's clothes at orgies. Given that the lack of corroboration, that claim is easily refuted (p.41). Curt Gentry's book told that Hoover's real crime was filing false expense reports. Athan Theoharis argues that Hoover's disinterest is organized crime was the result of a "lack of accountability"!! Hoover was not from a wealthy and powerful family, his career depended on pleasing powerful politicians by using his personal skills and talents (p.79). Hoover was first promoted under Wilson, kept his job under Harding, Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and then Franklin Roosevelt (who increased his powers). Hoover curried favor with powerful businessmen (p.40), and also sought information to stay in power (p.72). Hoover didn't investigate syndicated crime as long as the ruling Power Elite wanted that. Congressmen controlled the FBI budget, and Hoover got along by going along. [After the US Secret Service investigation sent a Senator and Congressman to jail, their budget was cut.] Naval Intelligence worked with organized crime during WW 2. Hoover's statement "no single individual or coalition of racketeers dominates organized crime across the nation" (p.17) is still true today; read that closely. Hoover collected scandalous news a necessary self-protection in the political jungle of Washington (p.72). If Hoover concentrated on left-wing groups rather than La Cosa Nostra he was just following orders (p.139).

Chapter One discusses the personal character of Hoover, but not his family background. The charge of homosexuality was often "used by persons who wanted to smear someone" (p.27). One example concerns three high-level aides of Nixon (pp.30-31)!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars some secrets were supposed to be private July 23, 2011
If there was anything true, everybody would know it already. People who have to put up or shut up because they have gotten in the way of institutions trying to control the future of space and time get bounced around in a society that depends on reputations that can be mixed with pornography or obscene material as most evidence never gets to the history books because of the flushing nature of indoor plumbing. Deep politics has crossed state lines.
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