Bill Moyers Misleads the Press

PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers isn’t proud of his power-lusting service as a White House hatchet man for Lyndon Johnson. But he isn’t doing himself or PBS any favors by misleading reporters who are nosing around into how he helped invade the sexual privacy of the White House staff in the LBJ era. Over at Slate, Jack Shafer first wrote a great piece on how Moyers wanted the press man-handled for Lyndon. (Read the whole thing.)

Then he added a piece that did some sleuthing to demonstrate that Moyers, that scold of Republican truth-mangling, tried to mislead The Washington Post. Shafer, a left-leaning libertarian sort, insisted "my beef with Moyers isn't what he did in the mid-1960s but his refusal to acknowledge in a straightforward manner what he did." Here's how it unfolded:

The Washington Post asked him last week to comment on its discovery that he had directed the FBI to investigate Johnson administration figures who were "suspected as having homosexual tendencies." He confessed to the Post via e-mail of having scant memories of the incidents of four decades ago but volunteered that the inquiries could have been in response to allegations brought to Johnson by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Paging through Michael Beschloss’s book from Johnson’s secretly recorded White House tapes of 1964-65, Reaching for Glory, Shafer spied Moyers smack dab in the middle of guessing who was gay on the White House staff, perhaps Jack Valenti, the future lobbyist for Hollywood:

Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, assistant director of the FBI and Hoover's liaison to Johnson, handled the administration's mop-up of the Jenkins affair and took instructions directly from the president on how to proceed. On Oct. 27, they had this conversation:

DeLoach: Mr. President. … I know how busy you are, but this is so humorous, I felt like I just had to tell you. We got a rumor that—in fact, Bill Moyers knew about it and asked me to check it out—that [a member of the Johnson staff] was involved in a homosexual incident down in Houston, Texas.

LBJ: I believe anything now, so check them all out...

Shafer added:

Beschloss adds in a note that "Jack's FBI" is a reference to the "FBI investigation LBJ ordered on all top staff and Cabinet members after the Jenkins episode." Indeed, in response to Johnson's criticisms that a just-discovered prior arrest of Jenkins proved that the White House staff hadn't been adequately checked by the FBI as he had demanded, Deke DeLoach told the president on Oct. 14, "I'll check to make certain that everybody on your staff has had that check." So, contrary to Moyers bit of dissembling to the Post, the administration's investigations were not initiated by Johnson after hearing from Hoover.

Moyers has a reason to hope that everyone under 60 forgets, after all his PBS moralizing on shows with titles like The Secret Government, and after suggesting Reagan should be impeached for Iran-Contra dishonesty in a documentary suggestively titled High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The more that uncooperative writers peek under the rocks of Bill Moyers in government service, the phonier he looks. He looks, unsurprisingly, like a Democratic hack who became a Democratic hack media star on PBS, a network launched by LBJ's Democratic hacks.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis