Documents reveal Paul Harvey’s long friendship with FBI
By Ric Bohy
January 25, 2010 at 11:15am
Folksy radio commentator Paul Harvey ,who died a year ago at age 90, was a sub rosa broadcast voice for the FBI who maintained a mutually beneficial friendship with bureau director J. Edgar Hoover for two decades.
The relationship, and an instance of Harvey naming “known Reds” for U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s ruinous anti-communist House Unamerican Activities Committee in 1956, were disclosed with the release of nearly 1,400 pages of FBI documents to USA Today, the Washington Post and other news agencies. The previously secret materials were turned over in response to a one-year Freedom of Information Act request.
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Harvey, who for nearly 60 years concluded his broadcasts with the signature, “And that’s the rest of the story,” enjoyed an audience of as many as 24 million listeners who were unknowingly fed FBI propaganda to promote both the bureau’s work and the crime-busting image of its often vindictive director, Hoover.
J. Edgar Hoover
In the kind of irony that was a constant thread through Harvey’s broadcasts, the journalistic subterfuge began in 1951 when the Chicago radio and TV commentator, then 32, was caught trespassing on the grounds of the Argonne National Laboratory, a nuclear testing facility near Chicago.
Setting out to prove that security could easily be breached at the lab, Harvey drove there at night, threw his overcoat on the barbed wire topping its fence, and climbed over. He had intended to scratch his name on objects inside the fence to prove he’d been there, but was caught by security guards almost immediately after entering the property.
The U.S. attorney in Illinois assembled a grand jury to consider espionage charges against Harvey, but it declined to indict him. “Nothing in Harvey’s file suggests Hoover did anything to help,” The Washington Post reported yesterday. “But Harvey appears to have been grateful for something.”
Soon after, Harvey’s friend, Illinois Republican Congressman Fred Busbey, asked the FBI if he could bring Harvey in to thank Hoover. An internal FBI memo written in response noted that Harvey “has a history of emotional instability” but seemed to have been “rehabilitated” as an effective anti-communist.
Harvey met Hoover, and their back-scratching friendship began.
Among the disclosures also contained in the previously secret FBI documents:
Harvey corresponded regularly with Hoover and his minions, often submitting his radio scripts for their input and approval. In at least one case, Harvey read verbatim FBI revisions to his report.
In 1956, Harvey sent tips about “known Reds” at a Texas Air Force base to McCarthy and his witch hunters, whose paranoiac anti-communist crusade destroyed the careers of federal bureaucrats, Hollywood intelligentsia and others before McCarthy’s demagoguery was challenged and exposed by pioneering CBS News correspondent Edward R. Murrow.
In 1959, Harvey and the FBI colluded to go after author, psychiatrist, and educator Bruno Bettelheim after he had been critical of Hoover as well as U.S. law enforcement’s handling of juvenile delinquents.