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Friday, February 20, 2009
Newsmax's Weird Attack on Jack Valenti
Topic: Newsmax

A Feb. 9 Newsmax article by Jim Meyers was a weird attack on Jack Valenti, the former aide to Lyndon Johnson turned movie industry lobbyist, playing up an assertion revealed by "Documents obtained by Newsmax under the Freedom of Information Act" that Valenti "was investigated by the FBI for his relationships with a 'top hoodlum,'" that "Valenti's father and father-in-law were both jailed for embezzlement," and that "an unsubstantiated report claimed that Valenti, who died in April 2007 at age 85, had arranged for an abortion for a woman impregnated by LBJ."

Why did Newsmax try to disparage Valenti, who died two years ago? Because he was a liberal? Because he's dead and, thus, can't fight back? It's unclear. But it is clear that Meyers was attempting a smear job.

A Feb. 19 Washington Post article offers a fuller view of what was in Valenti's FBI file than Meyers does. It points out that the information about Valenti's father and father-in-law showed up in "a routine background check performed when Valenti joined the Johnson administration in 1963," and that they were "picayune concerns," adding: "Nothing discovered during the background check was solid enough to endanger Valenti's position as a special assistant to the president."

Of much more interest to the FBI, according to the Post, was "the vexing question of whether Valenti was gay" and other sexually related allegations.

It's not until the 15th paragraph of his article -- after rehashing the alleged mob ties and criminal behavior of Valenti's relatives -- that Meyers gets around to the sexual part of Valenti's file. A note that an FBI agent heard from an informant who wanted Valenti investigated as a "sex pervert" because "he had read in the newspapers that Valenti swims in the nude in the White House pool" is dismissed only as "curious." The Post, meanwhile, puts the sexual stuff into context:

[T]he files ... provide further insight into the conduct of the FBI under [J. Edgar] 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.


In the Washington of the early 1960s, allegations or proof of homosexuality could end a career. In October 1964, Walter Jenkins, another senior aide in the Johnson administration, was arrested for allegedly having sex in the men's room of the Washington YMCA. The news leaked just before the election, and Johnson, rushing to stem the political damage, quickly secured the resignation of Jenkins, then his longest-serving aide.

Meyers devotes only two paragraphs late in the article to Valenti's alleged "association with a homosexual in California and Texas," identified as a professional photographer, adding that "President Johnson asked the FBI to probe any 'derogatory information' concerning his White House associates." Again, the Post tells the full story:

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 not surprising that Newsmax would hide information and not tell the full story. The question, still, is why Newsmax felt the need to attack Valenti.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:29 AM EST
Updated: Friday, February 20, 2009 12:30 AM EST

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