Last week’s revelation that LBJ aide Jack Valenti was investigated by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI in 1964 over suspicions he was gay has triggered a war of words between Slate’s Jack Schafer and Bill Moyers.

Shafer suggests that Moyers, then acting as the president’s chief of staff, was complicit in the witch hunt, while the PBS host says that Shafer is distorting history.

Moyers writes, “As the White House chief of staff at the time, it was my job to make sure the president’s requests were expedited, but it was also my responsibility—with the White House legal counsel—to make sure no individual was wronged in the process. We had to balance privacy against security, and we did. No harm came to a single person from any of these allegations. Nobody lost a job, and not a single name was leaked to the press. Did we handle the situation perfectly? I’ll let history be the judge of that one, but our actions certainly do not conform to the nasty caricature with its attendant insinuations that Shafer seeks to paint.”

Shafer responds, “Until Moyers says or proves otherwise, I’ll assume that he did request the investigations. All the rest of his letter is a nondenial denial.”

What Shafer does suggest is that LBJ was fully aware of the absurdity of Hoover’s FBI conducting the investigation, because the president was well aware of the rumors that Hoover was gay.

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