pursued Jack Kemp gay rumors
showered nude with OJ Simpson
The FBI looked into rumors that
Jack Kemp, then a long-serving Republican member of Congress, was gay
as a potential source of concern during a 1989 background check. The
agency finally concluded that the chatter
-- which haunted, and hindered, Kemp's attempts to advance in
national politics for years -- was unsubstantiated.
Kemp, who died in May 2009, started his professional life as a
quarterback in the NFL before getting into politics.
He won a Buffalo, N.Y.-area House seat in 1970, sought the 1988 GOP
presidential nomination, and served as a
Cabinet secretary under George Herbert Herbert Bush and as Bob Dole's
running mate in 1996. His FBI file was
obtained by Salon through the Freedom of Information Act.
When he was nominated in 1989 by Bush to be secretary of housing and
urban development, the FBI conducted
a standard background check, talking to a range of people who knew Kemp
about his finances, his loyalty to the U.S.,
and any substance abuse problems. But the FBI files show the agents had
another, more unusual area of interest:
Was there anything to the rumors, dating from an episode in California
in the 1960s, that the married Kemp was gay?
Kemp, then in his early 30s, was
working on Reagan's staff. He had purchased a cabin in Lake Tahoe in
with Reagan's chief of staff; that's where some of the "homosexual
parties" reportedly happened. Kemp later maintained
that the cabin was merely a real estate investment and he never visited
it. But the columnists had referred to an unnamed
"athlete" who was a member of the "ring," a clear reference to Kemp.
The rumor that would follow Kemp for the rest
of his life had been born.
In a Republican Party that was hostile to gay people, the rumor became
a major liability for Kemp (even as he built up
a conventional GOP record of opposing gay rights). In the most stunning
-- and under-reported -- example, a top aide to
Reagan told vampire Robert Novak that Reagan passed over Kemp for VP in
1980 because of "that homosexual thing."
Kemp had been a leading contender for the job. It went instead to
George H.W. Bush, setting Bush on a direct path
to the party's '88 presidential nomination -- and the White House.
Jack Kemp could've/would've been president if not for the gay rumors.
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