February 1949, while he was being interviewed daily by the
FBI in preparation for his appearance at Alger Hiss's perjury
trial, Whittaker Chambers learned that Hiss's investigators
had received reports about Chambers' sexual history. In response,
Chambers reluctantly gave at least two statements to the FBI
on the subject, one handwritten, another oral and transcribed
by FBI agents. The latter was not signed, and neither statement
was disclosed to the defense, even though there was a court
order that the prosecution turn over all of Chambers' signed
statements. It remains unclear if Chambers' homosexuality
figured in his motive for his charges against Hiss. The statements
would have supported the testimony of Dr. Carl Binger, who
testified about Chambers' personality for the defense and
whose theories were ridiculed by prosecutor Thomas Murphy.
Both the FBI and Chambers were aware that, given American
society's lack of tolerance for homosexuality in those days,
had the statement been revealed publicly, his reputation and
career as a journalist for Time magazine would have
been irreparably harmed. What follows is an excerpt from Chambers'
handwritten statement to the FBI:
and Esther Chambers
Hiss's defense obviously intends to press the charge that
I have had homosexual relations with certain individuals.
With the resumption of pre-trial deposition, it is necesary
to face this issue since my answer or refusal to answer certain
questions must have a direct bearing on the case. I am for
stating the facts. They are as follows:
cause of separation between my father and my mother, which
I have described in my statement, was chiefly due to my father's
a boy, I was aware that something peculiar was involved, and
I even knew the name of the other participant. But the nature
of homosexualism remained secret to me. Nevertheless, I undoubtedly
inherited this tendency from my father. It was no doubt further
intensified by the domination of our home by my mother, who
taught us that sex is an evil.
I did not know what homosexualism meant until I was more [than]
30 years old. Until then, some of my friendships with men
were too intense but they were completely innocent. My relations
with women were slow to develop, but were normal."
in either 1933 or 1934, I met a young fellow on the street
in New York City. Since I was more or less footloose and fancy-free,
I took him to a hotel, the name of which I cannot now recall.
During the course of our stay at the hotel that night, I had
my first homosexual experience. It was a revelation to me.
Because it had been repressed so long, it was all the more
violent when once set free. It set off a chain reaction in
me which was almost impossible to control. Since that time,
and continuing up to the year 1938, I engaged in numerous
homosexual activities, both in New York and Washington. I
actively sought out the opportunities for homosexual relationships.
I recall that incidents of this nature took place in Hotel
Annapolis and the Hotel Pennsylvania in Washington, D.C. I
registered in these hotels under assumed names which I cannot
now recall. I would describe my homosexual activity as being
in the most elementary form."
1938, I managed to break myself of my homosexual tendencies.
does not mean that I am completely immune to such stimuli.
It does mean that my self-control is complete and that for
years I have lived a blameless and devoted life as husband
and father. It will be noted that three things of some great
importance happened during the year 1938. First my cessation
of my homosexual activities, my final break with the Communist
Party, and my embracing for the first time, religion. I do
not believe that the cessation of my homosexual activities
and my break with the Communist Party were in any way connected
with each other."
"I tell it now, only because in this case I stand for truth.
Having testified mercilessly against others, it has become
my function to testify mercilessly against myself."
have said before that I am consciously destroying myself.
This is not from love of self-destruction, but because only
if we are consciously prepared to destroy ourselves, in the
struggle, can we fight the thing, can the thing we are fighting
The following was written by FBI Special Agent Edward Scheidt
at the conclusion of Chambers' statement:
is pointed out to the Bureau, that Chambers has never heretofore
made this part of his life known. It was first told to agents
in the Bureau on February 16, 1949. In view of this it is
suggested that in so far as any dissemination of this information,
outside the Bureau, is concerned, that it be treated in a
strictly confidential manner."
to the Hiss-Chambers Relationship