Bil Browning

FBI investigated Jack Valenti for being "a sex pervert"

Filed By Bil Browning | February 19, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Politics
Tags: Jack Valenti, LGBT people, Lyndon Johnson, MPAA

The FBI investigated former Lyndon Johnson aide Jack Valenti in 1964 to see if he was a queer. The married man went on to be president of the Motion Picture Association of America for almost 40 years. Valenti's crime was being friendly with a photographer who had "homosexual tendencies."

Johnson_Valenti.jpgPreviously 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.

Johnson initially blocked the FBI from obtaining a sworn statement from Valenti or approaching the photographer, asserting that Valenti was "attracted to the women and not to the men," files show. But under FBI pressure, the president relented and approved an investigation of his close friend.

It's a fascinating story and well-worth the read. I'm reminded of my post yesterday about The Sons of Tennessee Williams movie; at the same time this was happening, those NOLA queens were establishing a foothold in basic civil rights. What an accomplishment.


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