1950s Political Blackmail Caused Senate Suicide, Impeded Gay Rights Progress
In 1954, Joe McCarthy threatened to reveal Sen. Lester Hunt’s son was a homosexual unless he withdrew from his reelection bid. Two weeks later the senator took his own life.
More than 50 years after Wyoming senator Lester Hunt committed suicide inside his office, new details have come to light that reveal his son’s homosexuality may have been the catalyst for his action, reports MSNBC.
The new book from author Rodger McDaniel, Dying for Joe McCarthy’s Sins: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt, uncovers several interesting details about the story that have been overlooked since Hunt took his own life in 1954.
A year before his suicide, Hunt’s 25-year-old son had been convicted of soliciting sex from an undercover male police officer. When Senator Hunt began his reelection campaign, Republican senator Joe McCarthy threatened to expose the event if Hunt did not withdraw his bid, leading Hunt to commit suicide two weeks later in his office.
After years of careful research, McDaniel believes stories such as Hunt’s prove Senator McCarthy, who was notorious for his anti-Communist crusades, played a major role in delaying LGBT rights progress in the United States.
“Prior to Joe McCarthy, homosexuals — while there was discrimination — were widely tolerated and there was a vibrant gay community in Washington, D.C.,” McDaniel says. However, when McCarthy discovered gay people were employed by the State Department, he began spreading rumors that homosexuals were security risks, and “overnight, the view of the country towards homosexuals became very negative,” the author says.