2542FBI watched McCarthy anti-Hoover effort
- Oct 24, 2007http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071025/ap_on_go_ot/eugene_mccarthy_fbi
FBI watched McCarthy anti-Hoover effort
By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writer 7
WASHINGTON - When Eugene McCarthy ran for president in
1968, he pledged to fire J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI
director who had outlasted presidents from Calvin
Coolidge to John F. Kennedy.
Before long, McCarthy's calls for new FBI leadership
were cataloged and commented upon by FBI officials in
a nearly 500-page file, obtained by The Associated
Press through the Freedom of Information Act. The file
became available after McCarthy's death in December
Much of McCarthy's file focuses on law enforcement
duties surrounding the 1968 campaign, when McCarthy
helped galvanize opposition to the Vietnam War by
challenging President Lyndon B. Johnson for the 1968
Democratic nomination. The Minnesota senator's strong
showing in the New Hampshire primary led to Johnson's
withdrawal from the race.
According to McCarthy's file, FBI agents looked into
death threats against the candidate, and kept records
of his public travel and demonstrations. In the
process, they also paid close attention to McCarthy's
calls to replace Hoover, collecting several news
clippings, letters and memos on the subject.
For example, the FBI's Special Agent in Charge in
Indianapolis wrote to Hoover on April 22, 1968 to
inform him of a speech at Indiana University in which
McCarthy said the U.S. should "re-examine the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, and even reflect on who its
"I think this man is misguided and irresponsible and
in my opinion does not deserve the status of a
presidential candidate," wrote the agent, James T.
Neagle. "I am certainly setting the record straight as
to your ability and tremendous record as director of
the FBI over the years," added Neagle, who included a
newspaper clipping with the memo.
Although Vietnam was the driving force behind
McCarthy's campaign, the calls for Hoover's ouster fit
with the campaign's general themes. (Vice President
Hubert H. Humphrey, a fellow Minnesotan, wound up
winning the Democratic nomination, but lost the
presidential election to Richard Nixon.)
Hoover had been running the FBI since 1924, and would
hold the position until his death in 1972 nearly a
half-century at the helm.
McCarthy's son, Michael McCarthy, said that their
father warned about the "personalization of power,"
seeing that in both Hoover and Johnson.
"Dad felt very strongly about the danger of having the
head of the FBI so unaccountable, so permanent,"
recalled his daughter, Ellen McCarthy. "In the late
'60s and early '70s, we had a wonderful family dog,
Eric the Red. He who would go crazy at the mention of
J. Edgar's name growling and carrying on. It was one
of Eric's tricks most appreciated by Dad."
The file includes several other letters from people
defending Hoover from McCarthy's criticism with
copies sent to Hoover. One Hoover admirer wrote to
McCarthy, calling the criticism "in very bad taste, to
say the very least, and without reason, logic or
merit. I am certain that there are millions of
Americans who feel as I do!"
Once, Hoover took note of a memo circulated by the
mayor of Jackson, Mich., which defended the FBI
director from criticism by McCarthy. A newspaper story
in the Jackson Citizen Patriot about the initiative is
included in the file.
"I have learned of your expression of support of my
administration of the FBI and want to extend my
thanks," Hoover wrote to the mayor, Maurice B.
Townsend, Jr. At the bottom of the letter, the FBI
adds this note: "There is no record of Mayor Townsend
in Bufiles (Bureau files). We have had cordial
relations with the Jackson Citizen Patriot and its
editor, Honorable Herbert W. Spendlove, is on the
Special Correspondents' List."
That list referred to reporters the FBI had identified
as friendly, said Athan Theoharis, a retired Marquette
University history professor who has written several
books on the FBI and Hoover. Another list had
reporters who were not to be contacted, Theoharis
The FBI even took note of the state of McCarthy's
campaign hotel bills. In August 1968, Joseph D.
Purvis, Special Agent in Charge in the Washington,
D.C. Field Office, wrote to Hoover to tell him about a
conversation he had with "one of our good friends at
the Mayflower," a famous Washington hotel. The
person's name is redacted from the file.
Purvis wrote that the campaign had four rooms booked
since June, and hadn't made any payments with the
hotel bill exceeding $20,000 by the end of July. He
also noted that his Mayflower source was not aware of
the nature of the campaign business in those rooms,
"but he has observed those who use them are primarily
young people, both white and colored."
"By and large, he said, 'they are a pretty crummy
bunch.' They seem to enjoy room service immensely,"
The FBI's interest in McCarthy's activities extended
to the senator's family as well.
Once, when she was 20 years old, McCarthy's daughter
Ellen took a tour of the FBI. The FBI file includes a
memo from August 1968 that is almost certainly a
report of that trip, although the names are redacted.
The memo, titled "SPECIAL TOUR OF BUREAU," reports
that a man waiting for a special tour appointment
asked if the person who had just left the room was the
(redacted) of McCarthy.
When told that was the case, he said "that he thought
it was quite ironic that the individual who had stated
he would force Mr. Hoover to retire if elected
president was now sending his (redacted) down to the
FBI ..." the memo states. "All in the room appeared to
be quite amused by this aside, and their laughter
plainly indicated on which side their sympathies were
in the J. Edgar Hoover-McCarthy matter."
When shown a copy of the memo, Ellen McCarthy said she
and a friend toured the FBI around that time.