FBI

That Time the President, the FBI, and a Moonlighting Supreme Court Justice Tried to Dig Up Dirt on a Movie Star

When LBJ ordered an investigation of George Hamilton.

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And in 1981, LBJ's fears were realized.
Twentieth Century Fox

In 1966 George Hamilton, the movie star and future proprietor of the George Hamilton Sun Care System tanning salons, started dating President Lyndon Johnson's daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson. At that point, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports,

Johnson enlisted Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI to investigate every rumor they could find about Hamilton, including claims that he was gay and a draft-dodger, in a bid to dig up dirt on the actor….Rumors cited in [the resulting file] ranged from scurrilous to outright false, including the allegation that Lynda Bird Johnson was "running around with a bunch of homosexuals," that Hamilton was a draft-dodger, and that the actor was gay and had been seen with someone described as "little more than a prostitute."

Much of this story has been told before. Catha DeLoach, the FBI man who ran the operation with Fortas, wrote about it in his 1995 memoir. And while George Hamilton's autobiography does not mention the FBI probe, it does describe the "incredible scrutiny" he faced at the time, noting that the actor's brother was gay and that "'gay' was the dirtiest word anyone could have used in and around the Johnson White House." (*)

But the bureau's full file on the investigation has yet to be released. Two years ago, Tuan Samahon, a law professor at Villanova, sued to pry the file from the government, hoping it would shed light on Abe Fortas' career on the court. Last week U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno issued an opinion in the case.

Robreno notes that the full file "is overflowing with gossip, rumor, and third-level hearsay concerning potentially embarrassing allegations and personal details about private citizens," and that some of this material may thus be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. He has ordered the FBI to review its documents and release any material that does not pose these potential privacy problems. In the meantime, the judge says the bureau must produce the unredacted version of DeLoach's memorandum on the investigation—that is, a version where Hamilton's name is not blotted out.

We may never get to see every page of this story, but what we do know shows, as Robreno writes, "the ways and means of the government's investigation of private citizens in the 1960s." More specifically, it shows the particular styles of sleaze that coagulated in the Johnson White House, the Hoover FBI, and Abe Fortas' office at the Supreme Court.

(* I have not read either of those books, but both are cited in Judge Robreno's decision.)

NEXT: Labor Organizers Promise 'Civil Disobedience' at Fast Food Joints Thursday

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  1. So we are surprised that Nixon who is a well documented asshole and abuser of power, was a power tripping asshole?

  2. Meanwhile, rumor has it that if you were a woman and you wanted a job in the Johnson White House? you had to sleep with Johnson.

    “Lyndon Johnson Was a Dong-Waving Sex Machine”

    http://www.cracked.com/article…..ntion.html

    And then there’s all this junk:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/mag…..bj/377094/

  3. Johnson is one of the better examples of how unbelievably petty people can rise to positions of incredible power, and how they just get even more petty with that power.

    1. The system selects for unbelievably petty sociopaths.

      1. People who value power over money, security, or leisure should never be trusted.

    2. I bought the recent book describing how LBJ was behind the JFK assassination, not because I think there’s much cred to that, but because the reviews said the best part was the incredible dirt it had about LBJ which is more or less known to be true. He’s the first president I remember much about from when I was a kid, so it sounded interesting. Haven’t started reading it yet.

      1. I think the LBJ theory of JFK assassination is more credible than you might think. Not saying it’s a fact mind you, but of all the theories out there, this one seems the most plausible.

        1. Not saying it’s a fact mind you, but of all the theories out there, this one seems the most plausible.

          Other than the theory of a lone megalomaniacal Communist wackjob murdering Kennedy.

          1. Nah. Too unrealistic. Couldn’t happen.

            There are people SOMEWHERE who run EVERYTHING and NOTHING HAPPENS WITHOUT THEIR SAY SO.

            Which, of course you know, having been sent a memo on how to respond to that comment.

  4. As if we needed more proof that LBJ was a vile piece of shit. Maybe we should consider not vesting so much power in one man?

  5. …’gay’ was the dirtiest word anyone could have used in and around the Johnson White House.

    Little did LBJ know that they’d have the gays voting Democrat for the next 200 years.

    1. Well, that was nothing the Democrats did. That was Republicans cutting off their own dicks.

      1. Yeah, they were cutting real hard when they passed the Civil Rights Act that racist dems would not do on their own.
        Thank goodness for dems’ enlightened and evolving positions more aptly described as pandering political expediency. Why it seems like just yesterday they were against gay marriage.
        Hell, stick with your narrative and keep repeating in dem fashion to cement it with the stoopid.

  6. Bill Moyers approves

  7. Didn’t know Fortas was as bad as LBJ.

    1. He used to be LBJ’s lawyer, so…

      1. And a fixer, a role he continued on the Supreme Court.

        1. Yeah, this was before my time really, so I was unaware how much of a scumbag Fortas was, I read up on it a month or so ago, and it’s really bad.

  8. “These are you friends Pierce? Minorities, Jewesses, and the unseasonably tan?”

    1. “I’m gonna eat space paninis with black Hitler and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

  9. LBJ sounds like the stage name of a gay Mexican porn star.

    1. who smokes pot

      1. in his ass

        1. ?Ay, caramba! su el cabr?n enmascarado!

          1. There was a jail in South Vietnam named after him (well, sort of).

  10. And here I thought Nixon was the gold-standard for crappola!
    First we get Obo setting whole new levels and then a blast from the past.

    1. You thought that, Sevo, because the news media, opinion makers and intellectuals who loved FDR, JFK and LBJ, if not actively working for them, turned a blind eyes to their abuses. It wasn’t until a hated Republican followed in their footsteps that the news media, opinion makers and intellectuals noticed that an Imperial Presidency had arisen and was a bad thing.

  11. noting that the actor’s brother was gay

    You mean, just like in Zorro: The Gay Blade?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083366/

  12. [Rosenberg approaches Dracula in a restaurant]

    Doctor Jeff Rosenberg: The second way to kill a vampire, Count; three silver bullets through the heart!

    Cindy Soundheim: Jeffrey!

    [Jeff shoots Dracula three times]

    Count Dracula: No, Rosenberg, that is a werewolf

    Doctor Jeff Rosenberg: A werewolf? Really? Are you sure?

    [Guards start to take him away]

    Doctor Jeff Rosenberg: [to the guards] No harm done! The man’s all right! This was for a werewolf! No problem! Calm down! Take it easy! I’m a doctor! I know where I’m going!

  13. “They’re ALL my helicopters, Son.”

    1. Ain’t nothing wrong with you, you just need a haircut.

  14. So the President, the FBI Director, and a Moonlighting Supreme Court Justice walk into a gay bar….

    1. The bartender says, “the usual, gentlemen?”

  15. This is why I come to Reason.

    Not the endless nut punches,

    not the beating of the prog-pinatas

    Not for the celebration of oddities like bitcoins and buckyballs

    but for the Johnson Administration’s Gay Zoro conspiracy.

    Thanks Jesse

    1. LBJ started Zoro tolerance

  16. What are taning salons?

    1. Fixed. Thanks.

    2. It’s where you get taint.

  17. Offtopic

    I’m looking at homes on the internet and am looking at the amenities for one (inexpensive) one. No heating but it has a fire-place. And the fireplace is being touted as ‘eco-friendly’.

    I can’t think of a more eco-*un*friendly way to heat your house than with wood.

    Well, maybe burning old tires or barrels of oil.

      1. Manure is harder to get than old tires around here.

        1. Just throw in a lump of C-4 once in a while.

    1. Well, you could just have a pile of plutonium in the fireplace.

      1. That particular FP is definitely wood only – you don’t get those sort of technological luxuries in a sub $100,000 house, even here.

    2. Some fireplaces are actually pretty thermally efficient. If it’s a wood stove insert with a catalytic component it’ll actually burn a lot of the particles in the smoke as it passes through. Depending on the size of your house and how well insulated it is, you can heat the whole deal with a cord of wood over a season, and if you’re using oak you’re not going to have much smoke.

      Oh, wait. Is this a gas/ethanol/electric fireplace? You see those marketed as “eco-friendly” sometimes.

  18. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail

    ———————- http://www.jobs700.com

  19. the particular styles of sleaze that coagulated in the Johnson White House, the Hoover FBI, and Abe Fortas’ office at the Supreme Court

    Great phrasing. Brings to mind a pan of cooling fat.

  20. my neighbor’s step-aunt makes $74 /hour on the internet . She has been out of a job for seven months but last month her check was $12917 just working on the internet for a few hours.
    find more information========== http://www.jobsfish.com

  21. Interesting that people advocating individual privacy are trying to get a file that never should have been compiled. The court case should be to have the file destroyed and let Hamilton’s private life remain private.

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