Thursday, January 21, 2010
Who's That Queer [Roy Marcus Cohn]
Roy Marcus Cohn was an American lawyer who came to prominence during the investigations by Senator Joseph McCarthy into alleged Communists in the US government, especially during the Army-McCarthy Hearings. A highly controversial figure, he wielded tremendous political power at times.
McCarthy's hired Cohn as his chief counsel, choosing him over Robert Kennedy, reportedly in part to avoid accusations of an anti-semitic motivation for the investigations. Cohn soon gained power nearly equal to McCarthy's in the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, becoming known for his aggressive questioning of suspected Communists. Cohn tended to be disinclined to hold the hearing in open forums. This mixed well with McCarthy's preference for holding 'executive sessions' and 'off-the-record' sessions far away from the Capitol in order to minimize public scrutiny and to question witnesses with relative impunity. Cohn was given free rein in pursuit of many investigations, with McCarthy joining in only for the more publicized sessions.
Cohn and McCarthy targeted many government officials and cultural figures not only for suspected Communist sympathies but also for alleged homosexual tendencies, sometimes using sexual secrets as a blackmail tool to gain informants. The men whose homosexuality Cohn exposed often lost jobs, families, and homes: some committed suicide.
In 1984, Cohn was diagnosed with AIDS, and he attempted to keep his condition secret while receiving aggressive drug treatment. He participated in clinical trials of new drugs. He insisted to his dying day that his disease was liver cancer. He died on August 2, 1986, of complications from AIDS at the age of 59. He is buried in Queens, New York.
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