Richard Serrano has a great story in today’s LA Times about former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s obsession with Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jack Nelson throughout the early 1970’s. Hoover heard Nelson was planned on outing him as gay, and spent his later years (and who knows what kind of FBI resources) compiling a dossier on the reporter and his editors. Hoover even used to slander Nelson in the margins of departmental memos.
From the Times:
“Nelson is a mental case,” Hoover wrote on one memo.
“He is a rat,” he scrawled on another.
“A lice-covered ferret.”
For two years in the early 1970s, Hoover nursed an obsession with the new reporter in the nation’s capital. His agents pumped journalists for dirt on Nelson. He put Nelson on the bureau’s list of “untouchables,” reporters who were to receive no cooperation.
He even called Nelson a drunk and demanded that he be fired.
Hoover’s animosity toward Nelson was no secret. But FBI records released recently under the Freedom of Information Act reveal, for the first time, what fueled his fixation:
Hoover was convinced — mistakenly — that Nelson planned to write that the FBI director was homosexual.
The lengths Hoover went to punish the Times for Nelson’s continued employment would almost be comical if they weren’t so terrifying. Serrano’s piece is well worth the read in full.