“A Drunk, a Homosexual, and a Flagrant Fool”: Robert C. Ruark On State Department Employees Abroad

On March 23, 1950, columnist Robert C. Ruark wrote what he knew about “queers” (they “eventually acquire a tendency to hysteria,” for example) and why they shouldn’t be State Department Employees (their behavior leads “ever to blackmail. Always to blackmail.”) And besides that, according to Ruark, “Homosexuals travel in packs,” which means that where you find one homosexual, you’re bound to find ninety-one. He also promised to provide “some case histories tomorrow.”

Ruark styled himself after his idol, Ernest Hemingway. His genuine love of big game hunting in Africa, and his sympathetic views of the African peoples’ struggles against their colonizing masters, helped to cultivate his image as worldly and enlightened without sacrificing his reputation as a swashbuckling adventurist. For his follow-on article, Ruark mined one of his Africa trips for his “case histories.”


I Don’t Like Drunks and Fools Representing Me

Robert C. Ruark

Some time back I got on a boat to go to Africa and found it loaded with various State Department appointees to positions of delicate trust in the Near East — the oil country on which our future rests. The boat was also loaded with the Arabs and Egyptians with whom our people must work. The Arabs and the Egyptians almost died laughing at our people.

One executive was an alcoholic. Another, a military attaché, was so flagrantly homosexual that he regaled strangers at the ship’s bar with teary tales about his inability to write his boy friend every day. Still another was so stupid that he made obvious love to an obvious floozie in the deck chairs — and him with a wife and two children aboard.

This was our delegation — a drunk, a homosexual, and a flagrant fool. All going away to work for Uncle Sam. A drunk is a pushover for any kind of blackmail or extortion. So is the homosexual. And the fool is easiest of all to handle. On any given day he leaves himself open to compromise.

When a drunk is in charge of one set of papers and a homosexual is in charge of another and the fool has reign over still another, you don’t really need spies. Any half-stupid private detective, for ten bucks a day, can catch any or all in compromise, and shake him for whatever you wish. Gimme the plots and plans or I’ll turn you in for what you are.

Later on I visited one legation that was a real beaut. The military attaché was just about charming enough to wear a hostess gown in public. The head man was married to a French woman in a place where the French are despised. Nearly everyone I met seemed to be either drunk or homosexual.

The cultural attaché was married to one of the most pathetic women I ever met. She was a violent alcoholic. She was known to have got drunkenly ill at the table at a state function. She hung around bars and picked up strangers — sailors, soldiers and the local natives. She would take off her clothes in night clubs, and dance — solo — barefooted on no provocation whatever. She wept, fought, and passed out publicly. She was a joke with whatever ship hit port.

This is pitiful. This is pathetic. But she was, to my knowledge, condoned for over two years, although the time came when she was no longer asked to state functions. But her husband hung onto his job as our public representative abroad. For all I know he is still at it, which would make a tenure of nearly four years of unabashed derision by the people we pay him to impress with our dignity.

I do not blame this poor dame, nor censure her husband, nor place any personal fault on the drunk, the fool or the homosexuals. But I sure don’t like the idea of having them represent me abroad. Especially in places that swarm with spies, intrigue, and opportunity for easy corruption. The blame is on the permission of one man to rig a whole hierarchy of misfits in the State Department, and on our failure to recognize the rottenness and cut it out after the big sinner was caught and fired by President Roosevelt. That was a long, long time ago.

A government agency abroad is paid for its clean social fingernails and its ability to reflect honestly and pleasantly on the people back home. That’s why you have diplomats. I think it is foolish, therefore, to allow a man whose daughter has been publicly convicted of prostitution to remain as a United States advertisement abroad, despite his innocence, since a well-publicized tart who lives in the consulate lends little tone to Uncle Sam’s operation.

The State Department is largely a lip-service organization — much front, for advertising — and deeply involved in the welfare of our world. It seems awful dumb to put up with drunks and perverts and the husbands of town characters and the parents of prostitutes and fools and knaves when all espionage and checkmate diplomacy turns automatically on the weak link.


Epilogue:

On the same day this column appeared in the Washington Daily News, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) placed the text into the Congressional Record. At about the same time, Rep. Clare Hoffman (R-MI), a far-right populist from southwest Michigan and an early McCarthy ally, rose in the House to demand an investigation into Ruark’s claims:

Re. Clare Hoffman (R-MI)

Mr. Speaker, in one of the local newspapers there appears an article which is shocking and disturbing. It charges that we have in the State Department individuals who may I say are not decent Americans? I have heard a great deal about Communists in the State Department and in one other department of the Government.

My people are just as much concerned about disloyal individuals in Government service as are the people of any other district; but, in addition to that, like practically all Americans they are normal and decent God-fearing people. Some of them tell me, many of them tell me, that inasmuch as these rumors about the immorality of Federal employees in high positions do not seem to have been either investigated or contradicted that they are concerned before they get to the issue of communism or loyalty with this issue of morality and decency.

Let us put it this way: In their own businesses they would not for one moment think of employing a homosexual, not for one moment. Unless I am completely mistaken the people of other districts have the same thought. When giving employment they would never get to the question of loyalty, nor to the question of honesty if this other question arose. They just want none of that other kind. For years, 4 or 5 years anyway, perhaps longer, these stories have been going around Washington. They have been repeated on the floor, not from the well of the House, but from Member to Member, they have been hinted at in newspapers and over the radio at times, yet nothing has been done about it.

Mr. Speaker, we have been spending billions upon billions of dollars to obtain the good will of other peoples and other nations; we have spent billions of dollars in an effort to convince them that our way of life is the right way, the better way, really the only true and good way. Yet we have never, neither the President nor the Congress, nor any of the departments, made any successful public effort to disprove those stories which are circulated and do so much to create a bad impression throughout the world.

I recall when Winchell, in a broadcast after the ’42 election, referred, in effect, to Communists in the House. I tried at that time to have an investigation and have Mr. Winchell called down here and compel him either to admit that he was a liar, or if he had evidence, to show the fact, and if there were such men here, Communists in Congress, then we would expel them forthwith. I could not get action.

Now in view of the fact that this story has been printed in the papers, I think it is time, because we owe it to our people, to either disprove those stories or, if they are true, just get out of the departments; wherever they may be, any individuals who are of that kind or class or nature; and to accomplish that, after I saw that article in the paper, I introduced a resolution to create a committee which would find the facts as to these charges.

How long are we going to sit here and be inactive, when people, for whose actions we are, at least in part, responsible, people who draw their pay because we make the appropriations, are publicly accused of a lack of decency — let us at the moment say nothing about their loyalty — people who, if those stories are true, are nasty, dirty individuals. How long are we to permit them to represent us. Now, how long are we going to take it? That is what I am asking you, my colleagues.

The House did not act on Hoffman’s request.

On the Timeline:

Previously:

Feb 20, 1950: McCarthy links homosexuality and Communism.

Feb 28, 1950: The State Department reports dismissing 91 homosexuals.

Mar 14, 1950: McCarthy names five “bad security risks,” including one homosexual.

Mar 21, 1950: Columnist George E. Sokolsky says homosexuals are “advantageously stationed” in the State Department.

Mar 23, 1950: Robert C. Ruark’s column warns of homosexuals “traveling in packs.”

This story:

Mar 24, 1950: Robert C. Ruark follows up with “a drunk, a homosexual, and a flagrant fool.”

Next:

Mar 24, 1950: Westbrook Pegler says homosexuals in government weren’t a problem before FDR.

Mar 31, 1950: Rep. Arthur L. Miller gives “the putrid facts about homosexuality.

Apr 14, 1950: Westbrook Pegler agrees that “homosexualism is worse than Communism.”

Apr 18, 1950: GOP Chairman warns of “perverts who have infiltrated our government.

Periscope:

For March 24, 1950:
President: Harry S. Truman (D)
Vice-President: Alben W. Barkley (D)
House: 262 (D) 168 (R) 2 (Other) 3 (Vacant)
Southern states: 102 (D) 2 (R) 1 (Vacant)
Senate: 54 (D) 42 (R)
Southern states: 22 (D)
GDP growth: 7.3 % (Annual)
3.0 % (Quarterly)
Fed discount rate: 1½ %
Inflation: -0.8 %
Unemployment: 6.3 %
The 1950 Packard Eight Club Sedan for $2,224 (about $24,000 today.)

Headlines: Gen. Eisenhower, after criticizing military budget cuts, is invited to testify before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. The FBI allows the Senate Committee investigating allegations of spies in the State Department to view files “in the strictest confidence.” 83 Czechs aboard three transport planes defect to West Germany. Riots continue in southern Belgium in protest against the return of King Leopold III.

In the record stores: “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” by Red Foley, “Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In)” by Teresa Brewer and the Dixieland All-Stars, “Rag Mop” by the Ames Brothers, “The Cry of the Wild Goose” by Frankie Lane, “There’s No Tomorrow, by Tony Martin, “Dear Hearts and Gentle People” by Bing Crosby, “I Said My Pajamas” by Tony Martin and Fran Warren, “I Can Dream, Can’t I?” by the Andrew Sisters, “It Isn’t Fair” by Don Cornell and the Sammy Kaye Orchestra, “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” by Bing Crosby with Vic Schoen & His Orchestra.

Currently in theaters: The Kid from Texas, starring Audie Murphy and Gale Storm.

On the radio: Lux Radio Theater (CBS), Jack Benny Program (CBS), Edgar Bergan & Charlie McCarthy (CBS), Amos & Andy (CBS), Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS), My Friend Irma (CBS), Walter Winchell’s Journal (ABC), Red Skelton Show (CBS), You Bet Your Life (NBC), Mr. Chameleon (CBS).

On television: The Lone Range (ABC), Toast of the Town/Ed Sullivan (CBS), Studio One (CBS), Captain Video and his Video Rangers (DuMont), Kraft Television Theater (NBC), The Goldbergs (CBS), Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS), Candid Camera (NBC), Texaco Star Theater/Milton Berle (NBC), Hopalong Cassidy (NBC), Cavalcade of Stars/Jackie Gleason (DuMont), Meet the Press (NBC), Roller Derby (ABC).

New York Times best sellers: Fiction: The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier, The Egyptian by Mika Waltari, The King’s Cavalier by Samual Shellabarger. Non-fiction: The Mature Mind by H.A. Overstreet, This I Remember by Eleanor Roosevelt, Home Sweet Zoo by Clare Barnes.

Sources:

Robert C. Ruark. “I Don’t Like Drunks and Fools Representing Me.” Washington Daily News (March 24, 1950). As reprinted in “Extension of Remarks of Hon. Joseph McCarthy.” March 24, 1950.  81st Cong., 2nd sess. Congressional Record 96 part 14: A2182. Available online here.

“Morality of Certain Government Employees.” Remarks by Rep. Clare E. Hoffman given on March 24, 1950. 81st Cong., 2nd sess. Congressional Record 96 part 3: 4064-4065. Available online here.

Westbrook Pegler Writes: Homosexuals In Government “Never Existed Before the Long Roosevelt Regime”

Back in 1932, in his very second column on the front page of the New York World-Telegram, Westbrook Pegler let it be known that “my hates always occupied my mind much more actively than my friendships… the wish to favor a friend is not so active as the instinct to annoy some person or institution I detest.” His hatreds were many: labor unions, powerful businesses, bosses of every stripe, the wealthy, eggheads, Communists, Socialists, Fascists (or so he claimed), foreigners, Jews, the New Deal, and the Roosevelts, especially Eleanor, who he hated with a particularly obsessive passion. It seemed he could barely write a column without excoriating her somewhere along the way.

“The angry man of the press,” as Pegler was known, made hatred a high art, and he didn’t care who he pissed off. Much like the Trumps and the Hannitys and the Brietbarts of today, he pretended to speak for the common man while carrying the water for the same powerful interests he lambasted.

Oh, and he loved McCarthy. Pegler was part publicity agent and part informer for the Senator from Wisconsin. On March 24, as other columnists were having a field day the prospect of homosexuals in the State Department, Pegler decided it was high time he joined the fray and drag his usual obsessions along for the ride. Like Robert C. Ruark’s column of the day before, Pegler hinted at the 1943 resignation of F.D.R.’s close friend and confidant, Sumner Welles, when he questions whether the State Department’s list of ninety-one homosexuals dismissed since 1947 “include an old family friend of the Roosevelts…”


Fair Enough

By Westbrook Pegler

In the history of the United States, no situation ever existed before the long Roosevelt regime which was even comparable to that which was revealed recently by John E. Peurifoy, a deputy under-secretary of state, who testified that 91 homosexuals had been dismissed from the State Department. Homosexual means a person who has relations with another of the same sex. It is common knowledge that such persons have psychic ways of seeking one another. They flock together and are secretive and without honor. They are not beneath shame, however, and this makes them the more dangerous in positions of trust and “delicacy” in a government. Being furtive and ashamed, they are susceptible to blackmail and threats of exposure.

One person in the circle of Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers was conceded to be sexually depraved and was dismissed from a government service for that reason. Chambers himself had written erotic poetry which was published in a semi-public “artistic” review in Paris. It is obscure but not meaningless. The case of an unimportant admiral of our small Navy of 40 years ago comes to mind, but he seems to have been an individual specimen, not a member of a group or “camp.” He was tried and dismissed in disgrace.

Mr. Peurifoy did not name any of the 91 who were thrown out of the State Department alone. That was only one department. There is no information as to other departments. No reason occurs why the State Department should have been so heavily contaminated and others should not have been equally corrupt. There is no reason to assume. in the absence fo proof, that the 91 who were eliminated from the State Department were, in the English phrase, “the lot of them.” Others may be there still. In the absence of a list one does not know whether Peurifoy’s homosexuals include an old family friend of the Roosevelts whose reputation, rightly or wrongly, because notorious and who finally left, apparently of his own will and in good order. He was a confidant of the royal family and is shown to have been put to the uses of the communists in one conspicuous case.

In a recent broadcast, shamelessly plugging her paltry potboiler, This I Remember, the Empress said of her late husband: “I think he got — I think a great many people that perhaps he never saw but once made an impression on him. He began to learn about people. He began very often with me to meet different people when he was young and I always had lots of queer friends.”

In October, 1920, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for vice president under James M. Cox, John R Rathom, the publisher of the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin, of Providence, R.I., and two other persons were sued in a libel action by Roosevelt. The complaint is on file in the Supreme Court in New York City. It demanded $500,000 on the ground of charges published by Rathom concerning Roosevelt’s attitude toward sailors convicted of sexual perversion when he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. The article in question charged that degenerates had been returned to active service.

Shearn [former Justice Clarence J. Shearn of the appellate division] and Hare of New York were Roosevelt’s lawyers. Staunchfield and Levy represented Rathom. An affirmative answer was prepared which is still in existence and is cited respectfully by a few lawyers who were given it to study as a great example of that kind of pleading. It never was filed. F.D. Roosevelt’s failure to press his complaint, allowing it to lapse by default, was tantamount to an admission of the truth of the charge that he had been guilty of felonious conduct. One attorney for the plaintiff lat er said Roosevelt was afraid to prosecute his complaint and that, moreover, it had been just a bluff to impress the voters a short time before the election in which Warren G. Harding was elected.

Roosevelt’s complaint said Rathom and the others published a libel in the form of an open letter to him in part as follows:

“In Portland, Ore., you publicly denied the charge by the Providence Journal that you had destroyed or sequestered Navy records. This charge was true. It would be interesting to every officer in the Bureau of Navigation to learn the truth surrounding the disappearance of other papers in the —– case (name deleted by Westbrook Pegler) especially that portion containing your own handwriting, permitting —– to re-enlist. they were abstracted by your personal order and never returned. They were abstracted during your controversy with Captain J. K. Taussig, U.S. Navy, in connection with the charge that you had returned to active service men who had been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude, so-called graduates of the Naval prison at Portsmouth. With these documents so abstracted you felt safe to falsify the facts and print what you knew to be a deliberate falsehood.

“In the case of Captain Taussig you accused him of falsehood because he did not happen to agree with you on the miserable stand you had taken of sending degenerates back into the service. Out of your mouth you convict yourself of willful and deliberate falsehood. It was your own personal act over your own signature that returned —– and other criminals guilty of unnatural crimes to the service in 1919.

Briefly, Rathom charged that after he had been taxed with this act of returning depraved bluejackets to duty Roosevelt snatched back documents which he had signed for that purpose. Roosevelt and Rathon had charged him with the commission of a felony. Rathom admitted that he had. But Roosevelt never permitted Rathon to present his proof, quietly subsiding instead.


Epilogue:

Pegler continued writing for King Features Syndicate until 1962, when he fell out with executives at the syndicate’s owners, the Hearst Corporation. He then found work writing for the John Birch Society’s American Opinion. He lost that job in 1964 because he griped too much about the Jews and Eleanor. He then wrote for the White Christian Council and the anti-Semetic Christian Crusade.

Read More:

In 2008, the Providence Journal revisited the Newport scandal of 1919-1920, including details about Journal editor John Rathom and his war of words with Roosevelt.

Beb Brenkert also has a thorough account of the Newport Sex Scandal at the Daily Beast

In 2004, William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote a puzzling paean to Pegler for the New Yorker. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dianne McWhorter responded with a rundown on Pegler’s work and bigotries.

Jeff Sharlet also wrote a detailed profile of Westbrook Pegler in 1999.

On the Timeline:

Previously:

Feb 20, 1950: McCarthy links homosexuality and Communism.

Feb 28, 1950: The State Department reports dismissing 91 homosexuals.

Mar 14, 1950: McCarthy names five “bad security risks,” including one homosexual.

Mar 21, 1950: Columnist George E. Sokolsky says homosexuals are “advantageously stationed” in the State Department.

Mar 23, 1950: Robert C. Ruark’s column warns of homosexuals “traveling in packs.”

Mar 24, 1950: Robert C. Ruark follows up with “a drunk, a homosexual, and a flagrant fool.”

This story:

Mar 24, 1950: Westbrook Pegler says homosexuals in government weren’t a problem before FDR.

Next:

Mar 31, 1950: Rep. Arthur L. Miller gives “the putrid facts about homosexuality.

Apr 14, 1950: Westbrook Pegler agrees that “homosexualism is worse than Communism.”

Apr 18, 1950: GOP Chairman warns of “perverts who have infiltrated our government.

Periscope:

For March 24, 1950:
President: Harry S. Truman (D)
Vice-President: Alben W. Barkley (D)
House: 262 (D) 168 (R) 2 (Other) 3 (Vacant)
Southern states: 102 (D) 2 (R) 1 (Vacant)
Senate: 54 (D) 42 (R)
Southern states: 22 (D)
GDP growth: 7.3 % (Annual)
3.0 % (Quarterly)
Fed discount rate: 1½ %
Inflation: -0.8 %
Unemployment: 6.3 %
The Admiral 12½” TV/Phono/radio is $299.95 (about $3,200 today). The 12½” table-top model goes for $179.95 (about $1,900) and the 19″ console commands $495 (about $5,250).

Headlines: Gen. Eisenhower, after criticizing military budget cuts, is invited to testify before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. The FBI allows the Senate Committee investigating allegations of spies in the State Department to view files “in the strictest confidence.” 83 Czechs aboard three transport planes defect to West Germany. Riots continue in southern Belgium in protest against the return of King Leopold III.

In the record stores: “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” by Red Foley, “Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In)” by Teresa Brewer and the Dixieland All-Stars, “Rag Mop” by the Ames Brothers, “The Cry of the Wild Goose” by Frankie Lane, “There’s No Tomorrow, by Tony Martin, “Dear Hearts and Gentle People” by Bing Crosby, “I Said My Pajamas” by Tony Martin and Fran Warren, “I Can Dream, Can’t I?” by the Andrew Sisters, “It Isn’t Fair” by Don Cornell and the Sammy Kaye Orchestra, “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” by Bing Crosby with Vic Schoen & His Orchestra.

Currently in theaters: Conspirator, starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor.

On the radio: Lux Radio Theater (CBS), Jack Benny Program (CBS), Edgar Bergan & Charlie McCarthy (CBS), Amos & Andy (CBS), Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS), My Friend Irma (CBS), Walter Winchell’s Journal (ABC), Red Skelton Show (CBS), You Bet Your Life (NBC), Mr. Chameleon (CBS).

On television: The Lone Range (ABC), Toast of the Town/Ed Sullivan (CBS), Studio One (CBS), Captain Video and his Video Rangers (DuMont), Kraft Television Theater (NBC), The Goldbergs (CBS), Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS), Candid Camera (NBC), Texaco Star Theater/Milton Berle (NBC), Hopalong Cassidy (NBC), Cavalcade of Stars/Jackie Gleason (DuMont), Meet the Press (NBC), Roller Derby (ABC).

New York Times best sellers: Fiction: The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier, The Egyptian by Mika Waltari, The King’s Cavalier by Samual Shellabarger. Non-fiction: The Mature Mind by H.A. Overstreet, This I Remember by Eleanor Roosevelt, Home Sweet Zoo by Clare Barnes.

Source:

Westbrook Pegler. “Fair enough.” Washington Times-Herald (March 24, 1950). As it appeared in the Wilmington (DE) Morning News (March 24, 1950): 8.