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Strange Bedfellows

July 07, 1991

"To be fair," says Jack Beatty in his review of "A Question of Character" by Thomas C. Reeves, J. Edgar Hoover "claimed that the wiretapping of (Martin Luther) King had been Robert Kennedy's idea."

To be really fair, we must remind ourselves that the wiretapping was Hoover's idea, and that it took him from Jan. 8, 1961, to Oct. 10, 1963, to finally persuade a reluctant Robert Kennedy to sign Hoover's request for permission to initiate the taps.

Further, we might remind ourselves that two of the three men Hoover hated "most in the world" were Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. I'm afraid one of the deepest satisfactions in Hoover's life came in using one enemy to harm the other; when public knowledge of the taps tainted Kennedy's reputation, he must have been even more delighted.

Beatty is superficially correct. Hoover did claim Kennedy was responsible for the wiretaps, and Kennedy, as attorney general, accepted blame. "To be fair," however, requires more than superficial knowledge.

Readers who would like to deepen their understanding of these events may refer to "Secrecy and Power," the Hoover biography by Richard Gid Powers, or, for the fullest development of these particulars, "Kennedy Justice" by Victor Navasky.

WILLIAM SLATTERY

LOS ANGELES

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