The cringeworthy comedy of J. Edgar Hoover

The cringeworthy comedy of J. Edgar Hoover

A year before he died, J. Edgar Hoover tried something he hadn’t done before in his nearly five decades as FBI director. He tried to be funny.

The American Newspaper Women’s Club was honoring Martha Mitchell, the wife of Hoover’s close friend, the Attorney General John Mitchell. Considering Hoover’s less-than-glowing opinion of the press, and that he was basically a recluse at this point in his life, it was something a coup that Hoover actually agreed to attend.

And even more, he agreed to “some remarks in a light vein.”

Thus, for the first and last time, the world was treated to Hoover telling jokes.

Here’s Hoover’s riffing on:

His decades in an unelected position possessing nearly unchecked power …

bad press …

worse press …

worst press/confirmed bachelorhood/illegible dig at a certain newspaper …

Martha Mitchell’s infamous alcoholism (and Watergate-oversharing) …

punishing subordinates …

and the fundamental role the journalism plays in the preservation of democracy …

Okay, so that last one wasn’t a joke, but considering that Hoover would have wept no bitter tears if the Washington Post burned to the ground, it’s still pretty funny.


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