Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a key adviser to President John F. Kennedy, was investigated for his suspected links to communists, according to previously secret FBI documents obtained by Newsmax under the Freedom of Information Act.”
During the 1960s, there was so much hostility between Schlesinger and then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that Hoover scribbled a note on a document calling Schlesinger a "jackass."
Schlesinger, who died in February 2007, served as a special assistant in the Kennedy White House for Latin American affairs, and was one of only two leading advisers who counseled against the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. He also had served as a speechwriter for JFK, as well as other Democrats including Adlai Stevenson, Robert Kennedy and George McGovern.
Schlesinger was informally known as the White House's "court historian" and reportedly took notes that Kennedy intended to use when writing a history after he left office. Those notes became the basis for Schlesinger's, "A Thousand Days," a definitive book about the Kennedy presidency that became a runaway bestseller.
Born in 1917, Schlesinger was first investigated by the FBI in 1948 when he was asked to assist W. Averell Harriman with the Economic Cooperation Administration in Paris.
One individual told the Bureau that Schlesinger, then a Harvard professor, was a "liberal throughout the Roosevelt era and, like so many other liberals, was pro-Soviet."
But a 1959 document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act noted that this statement was an "isolated one," and that "all persons interviewed believed him to be entirely loyal to the United States."
The report observed that there may have been confusion between Schlesinger and his father, also named Arthur Schlesinger, a noted historian who "has belonged to many organizations declared subversive by the Attorney General." Some activities associated with Schlesinger Sr. may have been incorrectly attributed to his son, the FBI reported.
Documents show that President Eisenhower's Press Secretary, James Hagerty, contacted the Bureau and asked them to share with him and the White House information in their files about Schlesinger Jr. and New York Times Washington Bureau Chief James Reston.
Though such requests today would be illegal, the Bureau dutifully delivered to Hagerty details on both men. One FBI report stated that Reston had
expressed criticism of the FBI over the Harry Dexter White case. White, an economist and U.S. Treasury Department official, was widely suspected of engaging in espionage activity for the Soviet Union during World War II.
A major probe into Schlesinger's background was launched in 1961 when he was appointed special assistant to President Kennedy. Agents were told to "conduct thorough investigation covering entire adult life."
A document from that investigation stated that Schlesinger's father was "unwittingly associated with communist front groups in 1930s and early
1940s." It disclosed that Schlesinger Jr. questioned the competency of the FBI in an article and wrote an unfavorable review of J. Edgar Hoover's book, "Masters of Deceit."
And it observed that Schlesinger "criticized communists, and has advocated socialism. He has been inconsistent in indicating at one time an awareness of the communist menace and the necessity for security measures against them, and at other times a lack of such awareness. He has implied both criticism and praise to the FBI at different times."
Schlesinger was cleared to join the White House staff. But authorities launched a new probe in March 1962, according to an FBI document, when a
rumor circulated that Schlesinger had indeed been a Communist Party activist.
The FBI report stated: "On March 21, 1962, a confidential informant advised that on March 15, 1962, while he was talking in the presence of an
associate, with a third person in the latter's office in Washington, D.C., the third person confidentially advised that one of his friends has reported
to him that during his undergraduate days at Harvard University, he had attended a Communist Party cell meeting presided over by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. as chairman."
The FBI termed this claim "third-hand" information and sought to learn the identity of the original source of the report.
The official documents obtained by Newsmax do not disclose the informant's identity or indicate whether the president was told of the allegation. But a memorandum at the time read in part: "Our investigation did not develop any information indicating connection with any Community Party cell at any time."
However, the story apparently was leaked to widely read columnist Walter Winchell, who was known to receive confidential information about FBI critics from J. Edgar Hoover.
Winchell wrote in June 1962 that Schlesinger was "cited as a member of the Red-front American Student Union."
The bad blood between Schlesinger and Hoover is clear from documents. In April of 1967 Hoover was provided a report of a meeting between Schlesinger and New York University professor Conor Cruise O'Brien.
A document disclosed that during the debate, O'Brien asked Schlesinger three questions: Did he agree that Hoover's definition of a communist was "nonsense"? Was dissemination of such nonsense "by the authority of the FBI reprehensible"? Is he in favor of retiring J. Edgar Hoover?
Schlesinger answered, "Yes, yes, yes."
Columnist William F. Buckley wrote that during the debate, Schlesinger agreed with O'Brien's view that "J. Edgar Hoover was a dreadful influence on America, and that he should be fired."
After reviewing the report on the debate, a resentful Hoover wrote in longhand at the bottom: "Schlesinger is another jackass which enjoys the braying of his own voice."
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