I have just discovered that J. Edgar Hoover used Dorothy Kilgallen via Richard Berlin, to spread the rumour that JFK was involved in the Profumo case. On 23rd June, 1963, Dorothy Kilgallen published an article in the New York Journal-American: "One of the biggest names in American politics - a man who holds a very high elective office - has been injected into Britain's vice-security scandal." This was a reference to the John Profumo and Christine Keeler affair. Kilgallen went on to describe one of the girls as "a beautiful Chinese-American girl now in London." She added that the "highest authorities" had "identified her as Suzy Chang."
1. You said, "J. Edgar Hoover used Dorothy Kilgallen via Richard Berlin. . ." Are you implying that she was knowingly or unknowingly used by Hoover. That is, did Berlin tell her that Hoover was behind the story?
2. You quote Kilgallen's article which says, "One of the biggest names in American politics. . ." and connect that to JFK. How did you make that connection? "One of the biggest names" could be any number of highly elected officials.
3. You also refer to the JFK involvement as a rumor. How did you come to this conclusion?
The FBI and the CIA were both aware of the activities of Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies, Mariella Novotny, Suzy Chang, and other prostitutes associated with Stephen Ward from as early as 1960. Novotny had worked as a prostitute in New York City between December 1960 and March 1961 when she was arrested. After being released on bail she fled back to London. They still had her pimp, Harry Alan Towers, in custody but decided to drop all charges.
We know from declassified documents that Hoover believed that there was an international call-girl operation at work that was attempting to gain information for the Soviet Union. Hoover, who pointed to Novotny’s connections to communist Czechoslovakia, as evidence for this Soviet conspiracy. At the time he was also investigating two other prostitutes with links to Bobby Baker with communist backgrounds: Ellen Rometsch and Suzy Chang.
It is assumed that MI5, who were now know was using Stephen Ward to entrap Eugene Ivanov, an naval attaché at the Soviet embassy, was keeping the FBI and the CIA fully informed of this operation. The US intelligence agencies were also receiving information about Ward’s activities from two Americans living in London: Thomas Corbally and Earl Fenton. Both men were close friends of Ward.
A FBI document reveals that on 29th January, 1963, Thomas Corbally, told Alfred Wells, the secretary to David Bruce, the ambassador, that Christine Keeler was having a sexual relationship with John Profumo and Eugene Ivanov. The document also stated that Harold Macmillan had been informed about this scandal.
The original source of this information came from an unpublished interview that Keeler had given to Peter Earle, a journalist working for the News of the World. Keeler was negotiating a deal with the newspaper but because of threats coming from Profumo’s lawyers, they were unable to publish this information. During this interview, Keeler claimed that she slept with JFK when she visited New York between 11th and 18th July, 1962. Hoover checked out these claims and discovered that Keeler was indeed in New York on these dates.
It was not until July 1963 that Keeler’s confessions were published in the British press. However, the story about sleeping with JFK was not included in the article. Nor were Mariella Novotny’s claims that she had slept with JFK. Suzy Chang was also rumoured to have slept with JFK. She denied this but did admit that she had spent time with him after meeting him at the 21 Club.
Hoover saw these rumours as a way of applying pressure on JFK and RFK in his power struggle with the brothers. He therefore gave the story to Richard Berlin who passed in onto Kilgallen. It was Kilgallen who first suggested in the New York Journal-American (3rd August, 1962) that JFK was sleeping with Marilyn Monroe. It is assumed that this information also came from Hoover.
Hoover had already told RFK about Christine Keeler before the story broke in the UK. A FBI declassified memo dated 20th June, 1963, from Alan Belmont to Clyde Tolson referred to the concerns of Defence Secretary Robert McNamara about the John Profumo case. It stated "Mr. McNamara referred to a memorandum from the FBI dated June 14, 1963, advising that Air Force personnel may have had relationships with Christine Keeler." The next section is blacked out but it goes onto say: "McNamara said he felt like he was sitting on a bomb in this matter as he could not tell what would come out of it and he wanted to be sure that every effort was being made to get information from the British particularly as it affected U.S. personnel."
Another memo survives dated 2nd July (still before the Keeler confessions were published in the newspapers) which reveals that RFK asked Hoover to tell him “exactly what Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies did when they visited New York the previous year”.
In her recent autobiography, The Truth at Last, Keeler admits that she lied about having an affair with JFK. However, a fellow prostitute connected to Stephen Ward, Mariella Novotny, did claim in 1974 that she had taken part in sex parties with JFK.
In his book, An Affair of State, Phillip Knightley argues that “John F. Kennedy’s sexual appetite was so prodigious and so indiscriminate that he would not have been able to remember (who he had slept with).” Therefore, he had asked RFK to find out what the FBI had on him. He could have asked the CIA about this matter as their man, Earl Fenton, was also a close friend of Ward and had interviewed Keeler about her involvement with UK and US politicians.
What we do know is that JFK had a fear of being pulled into the Keeler scandal. According to Ben Bradlee, JFK asked David Bruce, the US ambassador in London, to provide him with daily reports on the scandal. Bruce got his information from Thomas Corbally, who was a close friend of Stephen Ward and had also been attending these sex parties. The great irony of this was that Corbally was also Hoover’s main informant on the scandal.