When the News Isn't Fit to Print ... Blog

O’Reilly Pop History Flash: James Buchanan Was Gay

In Back in the Day, Disappearing Ink, Harvard Math on 17/12/2010 at 07:59

While covering former President Jimmy Carter’s statement that America is ready for a gay president tonight, Bill O’Reilly announced unequivocally that James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, was gay.

The Fox News talk show host failed to elaborate as to where he got his facts, but it was undoubtedly from the same historians who tell us George Washington had an adulterous affair and that FDR had specific knowledge about Pearl Harbor on December 6th.

To Jimmy Carter, I would say that America was certainly ready for a rationally challenged president; we elected him, but O’Reilly surprises me.

James Buchanan, a lifelong bachelor, was engaged to be married to Ann Coleman, the daughter of a colleague, but was jilted by his betrothed after he “visited” another woman shortly before the announced wedding.  He courted at least one other woman during his lifetime.

Although Buchanan was the subject of rumors and jibes by his contemporaries because of his longtime living arrangement, before his presidency, with Alabama Senator and future Vice President, William Rufus King, there is no direct indication that he was gay.  Anything to the contrary is highly speculative.

O’Reilly should know better, but he is not alone among journalists who have bought into pop history and he won’t be the last to state facts not in evidence.

During the 1970s, there was a kind of reverse homophobia in play in America, an outcropping of the sexual revolution.  In some circles, particularly in liberal academia, if facts did not exist to prove that an individual was heterosexual, then he or she must necessarily be homosexual.

The same argument alleged that if one appeared to be gay by virtue of his or her manner, the presence of a same-sex roommate or absence of an opposite sex companion, the individual was certainly gay.  In other words, if a guy wasn’t bonking his brains out like a lemming, he had to be gay.

The Left used the argument on J. Edgar Hoover, who roomed with his deputy FBI director Clyde Tolson for 30 years, and supported it by fabricating stories about Hoover wearing women’s clothing at cocktail parties.  Anyone who actually believes it hasn’t studied the life of J. Edgar Hoover; the only things in that man’s closet were other people’s dirty secrets.

What we do know is that Buchanan was a Democrat and—like Jimmy Carter—a lousy president, and that long-term, same-sex living arrangements were not uncommon among men or women during his era.

Buchanan may have been a homosexual, but the fact is, without evidence to prove the allegation conclusively, it is simply bad history to make the assumption.  The absence of a woman in a man’s life doesn’t make him gay anymore than going wee-wee on a fireplug makes him a dog.

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