A lawmaker pushing to rename the FBI headquarters dismissed J. Edgar Hoover as racist and misogynistic

FBI headquarters
The FBI's J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building in Washington.

Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia said Saturday that he wants the FBI headquarters building in Washington, DC, to be stripped of J. Edgar Hoover's name because of his racist and misogynistic behavior.

Appearing in a video streamed on MSNBC's "The Cross Connection," Connolly said the building should be renamed "after somebody who deserves it."

"I introduced [legislation] to form a national commission to rename the J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building," he said on the show. "We need to do this because frankly, J. Edgar Hoover was a maligned character in American history."

"He was a racist who went after Martin Luther King in extraordinary ways. He was a homophobe. He was a misogynist," Connolly continued. "He was somebody who even denied the existence of the mafia for decades, allowing organized crime to get a toehold here in the United States."

Government records unveiled in 2019 revealed that Hoover authorized a probe into King, signing off on a plan to blackmail him. Insider's Bill Bostock previously wrote the FBI's extensive plans to monitor and blackmail King show how Hoover was "personally obsessed" with bringing down the civil rights icon.

Hoover at the time was the director of the FBI, which for years gathered evidence linked to King's sexual behavior with women. Hoover thought King sympathized with the communists. When he found out that King had had affairs with as many as 40 women, he gave his agents permission to send King a tape-recording of an orgy in King's Washington, DC, hotel.

King received that tape in the mail along with a note written by the FBI that encouraged him to listen to it.

"It is all there on the record, your sexual orgies. Listen to yourself you filthy, abnormal animal," the letter read. "You are on the record. You have been on the record - all your adulterous acts, your sexual orgies extending far into the past. This one is but a tiny sample."

It is unclear whether the agents involved were depicting the true reality of King's private life, or sparking gossip as part of their campaign against him.

Connolly did not propose alternative names during his video appearance on MSNBC.

"Hoover abused his power and trampled the civil liberties of Dr. King, anti-war protesters, his political rivals, and too many others," Connolly said upon reintroducing a bill to rename the building. "He is no role model for any time, and certainly not this one. Congress must right this wrong and rename this building."

In a press release from his office, Connolly proposed the formation of a nine-member commission to conduct a review and make "any recommendations related to the redesignation of the Hoover building within 180 days of enactment."

Conversations around renaming the FBI headquarters building come as multiple cities and states across the country announce the removal of Confederate statues that are emblematic of the nation's racist history.

There are also widespread discussions about renaming schools and institutions whose original namesakes exhibited racist or oppressive behavior.

Insider's Bill Bostock contributed to this report.

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