ALGER HISS was on a very clear trajectory toward becoming our nation’s Secretary of State—after helping to found the United Nations—when, in 1948, he was repeatedly and publicly attacked, for reasons I now see as politically motivated, clearly false, possibly pathological, and definitely homophobic.
Alger Hiss was also my stepfather. At age 91, I am the last living eyewitness to this dark moment in our country’s history, commonly known as “the Alger Hiss Case.” I’d like finally to close this chapter in our history—to the extent possible in this age of fake news and falsified history.
The attacks on Alger Hiss came from none other than the future president Richard Nixon, who was hoping to win his first term in the U.S. Senate. Also attacking Hiss was the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose purge of suspected Communists was in full swing, and his lawyer Roy Cohn, a closeted gay man. Among Cohn’s many high-profile clients later in his career was Donald Trump, a relationship that lasted for many years until Cohn’s death from AIDS in 1986.
Finally, lurking throughout the Hiss Case, and especially as it concerns my role in it, was J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI for almost fifty years—and another closeted gay man. He maintained his power—and his secret—through a huge, private collection of dossiers on the personal lives of every politician or power broker who mattered in Washington, including presidents. He even had a file on me (about which, more to follow).