History

Jack Valenti's R-Rated White House Waterplay: A Sign of Secret Gay Hi-Jinks? Your FBI Is On the Case!

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Recovered history: J. Edgar Hoover's intense interest in the question, Is Jack Valenti a homosexual?

When Beltway insider Jack Valenti died two years ago at age 85, he was playing the role of intermediary between Washington and Hollywood as the theatrical, snowy-haired president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

But back in 1964, Valenti was a Houston ad executive newly installed at the White House as a top aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson. And J. Edgar Hoover's FBI found itself quietly consumed with the vexing question of whether Valenti was gay.

Previously confidential FBI files show that Hoover's deputies set out to determine whether Valenti, who had married two years earlier, maintained a relationship with a male commercial photographer. Republican Party operatives reportedly were pursuing a parallel investigation with the help of a retired FBI agent, bureau files show. No proof was ever found, but 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.

And what set off the spy chief's probe into another man's sex life? This:

[I]n October 1964, a man whose name has been redacted from the records called an FBI official in New York. The caller encouraged the FBI to investigate Valenti "as a sex pervert," files show. "He based this request on the fact that he had read in the newspapers that Valenti swims in the nude in the White House pool."