First, it was former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Now the gay rumors are being draped over Richard Nixon, the dark, homophobic two-term president doomed by the 1972 Watergate break-in.
In the upcoming bio Nixon's Darkest Secrets, former UPI White House reporter Don Fulsom, armed with new eyewitness interviews and documents, suggests a shocking "homosexual nature" in the relationship between Nixon and his best friend Bebe Rebozo, the president's alleged mob bagman who was at Nixon's side when he died.
While there is no evidence of any sexual encounters—as with the Hoover rumors played out in the new Clint Eastwood movie J. Edgar—several examples of cuddling and awkward swimming pool games between Nixon and Rebozo are described in the book, due out January 31. For example, Fulsom reveals three instances of the two men holding hands, sometimes in public, one time under a dinner table, something Nixon did rarely, if ever, with wife Pat.
He quotes a former Time reporter who described a long hand-holding interlude that led her to describe the relationship as "repressed homosexuality." Another reporter quoted says that when Nixon drank he sometimes became very friendly with Rebozo, once putting his arm around the Cuban-American "the way you'd cuddle your senior prom date. Something was fishy there."
Fulsom also cites letters between Rebozo and Richard Danner, the "Mafia-connected Miamian" who introduced Rebozo to Nixon. Danner refers to constant invitations by Rebozo to overnight at his Florida home and he dubs the Nixon friend a "man-eating tiger," to which Rebozo responded, "Frankly, you are not my type."
Fulsom, who also covered Lyndon Johnson's administration, describes Nixon as a functional drunk in a sham marriage. In one memo, for example, TV consultant Roger Ailes, now the head of Fox News Channel, urges Nixon to show some affection to Pat. "From time to time, he should talk to her and smile at her. Women voters are particularly sensitive to how a man treats his wife in public." Nixon's former military aide tells of how his secret job was "to teach the president how to kiss his wife."
Apparently that didn't happen much. Instead, Nixon is described as a cruel wife-beater, who used to call his wife a "fu----- bitch" and beat her before, during and after his presidency. No surprise, then, that Fulsom reports the two had separate bedrooms. In Key Biscayne, Florida, the president's resort home, the first lady stayed in a different house: guy pal Rebozo, however, stayed right next door to Nixon.