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.