Was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover Gay?

1972 photo of Bebe Rebozo, Director Hoover and President Nixon

M. Wesley Swearingen, an FBI agent from 1951 to 1977, writes in his memoir FBI Secrets: An Agent’s Expose about the long-standing rumors within the Bureau concerning the relationship between FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Associate Director Clyde Tolson which include allegations that Hoover ignored the Mafia for decades because the wise guys had incriminating goods on the supposed lovers:

The allegations were fleshed out in Official and Confidential: the Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover by Anthony Summer. A review of the book (“Partners For Life”) by Sidney Urquhart for Time magazine summarizes one alleged incident as follows:

The “two young boys” with whom Hoover allegedly had sex perhaps were provided by Ed “the Skull” Murphy who was a long-time Genovese associate involved in the crime family’s gay bar and boy prostitution rackets in New York City. In Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution, David Carter writes:

Murphy’s boys did have a habit of disappearing. For example, one Puerto Rican youth known as Tano with whom Murphy was sexually involved was kidnapped right off the streets never to be seen again according to one eyewitness to the incident as recounted by Carter in Stonewall.

Curiously, Murphy also was a long-standing FBI informant according to a May 8, 1978 article (“Skull Murphy: The Gay Double Agent”) by Arthur Bell for The Village Voice. Indeed, this article contained the interview in which Murphy expressly speaks of J. Edgar Hoover as one of his “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.”

The allegations that Meyer Lansky had incriminating evidence against the FBI Director are particularly credible in light of the relationships among all the parties with political fixer Roy Cohn — a fellow closet case who died of AIDS in 1986 — at the center of it all.

Cohn was a personal friend of Hoover during the 1950s and 1960s, and the two shared extensive correspondence directed to each other on a first-name basis including a September 1957 exchange on an article published by the Director entitled “Let’s Wipe Out the Schoolyard Sex Racket.” Ironically, only months earlier an apparent obscenity indictment against Cohn had been dismissed according to an FBI memo dated June 28, 1957 from Assistant Director Louis B. Nichols to Clyde Tolson:

Cornelius “Neil” Gallagher later became a U.S. Congressman from Bayonne, NJ until he lost the seat in 1972 after Life magazine ran an article alleging mob ties.

The relationship between Hoover and Cohn is particularly troubling given that the FBI was fully aware that Cohn had ties to the most powerful bosses in the Mafia. For example, in 1964 federal prosecutor Robert Morgenthau was trying Cohn on corruption charges, and at the trial introduced excerpts of earlier grand jury testimony by Cohn. A March 27, 1964 article from The New York Times which the FBI contemporaneously clipped for its files on Cohn states:

Cohn further had represented the Stork Club which was Hoover’s favorite stomping ground and Schenley Industries which was one of the country’s largest liquor distillers. Louis Rosensteil was the president of Schenley Industries, and he had close ties to Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello. “In fact, on several occassions, Hoover was seen at the Stork Club fraternizing with people like Costello and Rosensteil” according to Peter J. Devico in The Mafia Made Easy. After Hoover’s right-hand man Louis Nichols left the FBI in 1957, Cohn allegedly secured him a plum job making $100,000 a year at Schenley Industries although Nichols insisted in Hooveresque fashion that Rosensteil shunned the mob.

Of couse, the best evidence that Meyer Lansky had the goods on the FBI Director is that the storied agency never laid a hand on the gangster who was a bootleg kingpin during Prohibition, later founded Murder Inc., and finally ran gambling operations in Las Vegas and Havana, Cuba for the Genovese family. At the time of Lansky’s death in 1983 the FBI estimated that he had a net worth of $300 million, and yet during his long criminal career the G-men never nailed him on a single charge or recovered a single penny. Indeed, the FBI did not even start a file on Lansky until the 1950s, and a review of the file’s sparse contents illustrates that the agency’s efforts to target him — a purported top hoodlum — were half-hearted at best involving little more than the occasional wiretap and a sometimes surveillance. Indeed, the newspaper articles on Lansky which the FBI clipped were more informative on the mobster’s activities than the investigator reports. Ironically, Lansky only was arrested in 1972 — the same year Hoover died — as a result of an IRS investigation involving an alleged skimming scheme from a Vegas casino, and even that indictment conveniently was dismissed because Lansky was considered too ill to prosecute.

Author of “The Mafia and the Gays,” “Railroaded: The Homophobic Prosecution of Brandon Woodruff for His Parents’ Murders,” & “Queer Joints, Wiseguys and G-Men”