“J. EDGAR”, from Clint Eastwood, and that cross dressing story…

November 8, 2011

During the  publicity campaign for the launch of the new Clint Eastwood movie J. EDGAR, there have been critical references to the account in my biography of J. Edgar Hoover - shortly to be republished. The criticism concerns the allegations I reported that Hoover, apparently a more or less repressed homosexual, also on occasion cross-dressed. I’ll here respond to such criticism. 

    The person principally cited on the cross-dressing is Susan Rosenstiel, a former wife of Lewis Rosenstiel, a millionaire distiller with close links to organized crime – and a longtime Hoover associate who contributed $1,000,000 to the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation. Those who suggest his former wife’s cross-dressing claim is not credible raise the fact that she had pled guilty in 1971 to an attempted perjury charge. I was aware of that, reported it in the original edition of my book Official and Confidential - and explained the circumstances. The charge was brought in connection with a civil suit and – I was told by New York State Legislative Committee on Crime interviewees – was thought by them to be unprecedented and bizarre. Noting that the charge was brought the very week the Committee intended to produce Susan Rosenstiel as a witness to her former husband’s Mafia links, the Committee sources said they believed the charge was instigated by Lewis, in an effort to discredit his former wife and thus obstruct the Committee’s inquiry. Court records showed that Lewis Rosentiel had used similar tactics to obstruct the course of justice in the past.

    During six years’ work on Official and Confidential, which included repeated interviews with Susan Rosenstiel, her account on various areas – including the sex allegation – remained consistent. She signed an affidavit asserting that the information she provided was true. I asked Mrs. Rosenstiel to agree to a television interview and to grant me exclusivity for a matter of years, and paid her a fee in that connection. I emphasize, however, that the matter of a fee came only after she had given me her lengthy initial interview, which was therefore not tainted by any payment.

    New York Judge Edward McLaughlin, former Chief Counsel of the Crime Committee, and Committee investigator William Gallinaro, told me Mrs Rosentiel had been an excellent witness. “I thought her absolutely truthful,” Judge McLauglin said. That too, was in my Hoover biography, and more – but was not quoted by any of those who assailed the passage on Susan Rosentiel in the book. Almost none of them noted, moreover, that a similar account of alleged cross-dressing came to me from two other interviewees, referring to a different location and a different timeframe. On the basis of all of this, and after discussion with my publishers, we included her account – which was broader than the cross-dressing allegation – in the book.

    I would note, finally, that the cross-dressing allegation is one passage in a biography of some 600 pages. The overall reporting on his sexuality is pertinent to any study of the man, not least in the context of his insistence on the ruthless pursuit of homosexuals. It is one element in the evidence of Director Hoover’s overall abuse of Americans’ rights and freedoms.

                                                                                                                                                    A.S.

4 Comments

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4 responses to ““J. EDGAR”, from Clint Eastwood, and that cross dressing story…

  1. Has anyone ever determined what was in the hoover files that were destroyed immediately after his death?

    • Hoover loyalists claimed there were few or that they were merely personal social correspondence. There seem to have been some two dozen file cabinets, however. And they were perhaps the “Personal and Confidential” files. Professor Athan Theoharis, who did most to expose FBI secret dossiers of the period, said he believed they may have contained material even more explosive than the “Official and Confidential” files. Re. this, see the final pages of my Hoover biography “Official and Confidential.” So far as I know the matter rests there.

  2. Thomas Madsen

    Mr. Summers, are you familiar with Tim Weiner’s “Enemies” a history of the FBI, the new book which takes issue with some of the conclusions you make in your own book about J. Edgar Hoover, his sexuality and especially about the highly suspect and irrational yet sensational report from Rosenstiel. One must admit that it is increasing difficult to believe that Hoover would ever, ever, under any circumstances behave in the way she described given that such a behavior would have been the personal and career equivalent of commiting suicide in the most disgraceful manner available at the time, her inexplicable account of Hoovers alledged public transvestism is not something from which any benefit or thrill could reasonably be derived to balance the disasterous effect on his life and legacy that such a revelation,had he been discovered,would have made . A man who would gamble in such a way with his own hard earned public image is not likely to have been one who could accomplished the things that J. Edgar Hoover has over the span of one lifetime. As to the homosexual rumors regarding Hoover to which you give creedance in your writings, Weiner cites Hoover’s destruction of the careers of so many persons in government who happened to be homosexual as the very reason that such an allegation was ever laid at his feet in the first place. That is to say, Pay back. Considering the proclivity of homosexual activists to brand their detractors as self-hating homosexuals, not a realistic suggestion in most cases, it seems that Weiner has a very valid point here. Weiner declares that the timing of rumors regarding Hoover’s purported homosexuality coincide precisely with the aftermath of Hoover’s dedicated efforts to purge government offices of individuals who were homosexual, this in a perhaps misguided effort to sidestep any increased potential for homosexuals to be blackmailed and controled by enemy powers, namely Communist states. Are you familiar with this book? And if so, how do you respond to Weiner’s conclusions about the rumors and weak and suspect allegations which against all rational reasoning are nevertheless supported in your book?

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