2015 Archives

FBI mined secrets from George McGovern's past


The following is from the July 27, 2015, edition of USA today. SMU History Professor Thomas Knock provided expertise for this story.

July 31, 2015

By Jonathan Ellis

On April 16, 1975, two FBI inspectors met with Sen. George McGovern in Washington.

A month earlier, McGovern had written a letter to FBI Director Clarence Kelley asking for a copy of any file that the FBI kept on him. In fact, unbeknownst to McGovern, the FBI had accumulated a large file on the senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, but FBI officials were reluctant to share the information. The two FBI inspectors met with McGovern to negotiate a compromise.

McGovern, according to an FBI account of the meeting, was agreeable to a compromise. There was a chance, he told the inspectors, that he might be on the national ticket in the next presidential race in 1976. He related his own disastrous experience with his first vice-presidential candidate in 1972, and he wanted to be able to tell any potential running mate if the FBI possessed derogatory information about him.

Specifically, he wanted to know if the FBI had information about a child he fathered as a young man. . .

Thomas Knock, a history professor at Southern Methodist University, has written a biography of McGovern that will be published in early 2016 by Princeton Universtiy Press titled "The Life and Times of George McGovern," which includes details about the incident. Longtime McGovern admirers might be "taken aback" by the fact that McGovern fathered a child when he was a young man.

"It's one incident in the life of a long career of a great statesman," Knock said. "It's very interesting as biography, but not significant historically."

Read the full story.

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