What Explains J Edgar Hoover's Refusal To Take The Mafia Seriously?

From all the accounts Ihave read, Hoover either didn’t believe that there was a mafia-dominated organized crime network in the USA, or didn’t care.
He seems to have interpreted many famous crimes (such as the Boston Brink’s Robbery) as the work of communists!
Despit his absolute control of the FBI, Hoover never launched a formal investigation of the Mafia, until the 1957 Apalachin, NY , meeting of the dons-in which an off-duty NY state Policeman noticed a lot of out-of-state cars showing up in the rural village of Apalachin, NY.
Why was this?
There seems to be two main theories:
(1) Hoover thought that the Mafia was basically locally-based criminals-he didn’t want “his” agents involved in such petty matters-chasing communists was much more prestigious. hoover saw little value (to himself) in chasing the “moustach petes”.
(2) (More sinister)-Hoover was a sexual pervert, who liked to dress as a woman. the mafia knew this, and was blackmailing him. This would explain his fights with Atty. General RF Kennedy, who wanted to go after the Mob.
Which was it? And (bonus question) was hoover showing signs of senility in his final years as FBI head? He didn’t seem all that sharp to me.

I think it was probably more the first than the second. A lot of the Mafia stuff was local, or Hoover saw it as local, and Hoover saw it as outside of FBI jurisdiction. I think he was also concerned that the Mafia was corrupting on the police who went after it. They had a lot of money for bribes and things like that, and Hoover didn’t want to risk corruption in the FBI.

Plus, as Ronald Kessler’s The Bureau points out, the Mafia had ties to politicians, and so Hoover didn’t go after them for the same reason he didn’t go after political corruption, and for the same reason he kept files on Congressmen. He wanted to keep his job, which meant he had to keep Congress happy, or at least make sure that Congress wasn’t upset enough with him or the FBI to try to reign it in. An aggressive investigation might have done that.

The evidence that Hoover was a transvestite is weak at best, and mostly based on the statements of a perjurer with an axe to grind against him. Here’s Cecil on it.

Cecil’s article correctly says that the cross dressing thing was bogus. He is far too skeptical on the gay aspect with Tolson. Hoover was never connected with a woman in his entire life. Neither was Tolson. Hoover and Tolson were inseperable and while they did not live together, they took all their vacations together, worked together, picked each other up to go to work and are buried together. So they were either lovers or asexual together.

For what it’s worth, Kessler is skeptical about Hoover and Tolson, too, saying that while thy were clearly very good friends, there’s no evidence they ever had a sexual relationship, and that Hoover, while he didn’t date, was energized and tried to flirt with good looking women at social functions. Kessler’s opinion about Hoover’s sexuality was that he was prudish, that he was a perfectionist, that he was unduly influenced and that he divided women into “good time girls” and “women you marry”, and there really was no one he’d put in that second category. He sees Hoover as being too obsessive and too controlling to pursue a relationship, because no one would ever be up to his standards, or anyone who did, wouldn’t put up with him.

Hoover thought that his agents would be too susceptible to bribery and blackmail from the mob.

I think Hoover might have just plain took bribes.

Can’t rule it out.

Hoover taking bribes would have made him highly susceptible to blackmail. There isn’t any evidence that Hoover took monetary bribes.

There is no evidence that Hoover and Tolson engaged in sex with each other. But it does seem bizarre to me that they wouldn’t considering how close they were for so many decades without either having any love interest of any kind. It is possible that they were each asexual, but that is really very rare. Hoover did have the most extensive porn collection in the United States as part of his official duties.

So, see, he didn’t have to date!

Meh, it’s porn from the fifties and sixties.
Everybody’s smoking.

Smoking hot, you mean :wink:

I don’t think you’ve seen much 50s and 60s porn Manduck.

Suppose the mob reached out to Edgar rather than vice versa? Ie: said “you leave us alone and we’ll leave you alone”?

If his alleged lenience towards Mafia was just because of him not wanting to be blackmailed in any way, wouldnt that be a total counter example? Being the owner of the largest pron collection in the world during the fifties sounds like one big secret you wouldnt want others to know about.

BTW: two asexual men working very close together for decades sound like two homosexuals in full denial mode.

He was the “owner” of it in the sense that it belonged to the FBI. All porn sent through the mails at that time was federally illegal and confiscated/kept as evidence by the FBI.

Hoover had an extensive porn collection in his own official office that no other people had access to. His own files, along with his own files on politicians, were never used as evidence. They were destroyed by his secretary after his death on his own orders. Patrick Gray, his successor, didn’t think anything of it at the time. This was not an evidence locker of any sort. He possessed it. He had no ownership of any of these things.

This question puts into mind the true limits of historical inquiry. Barring the discovery of a new source I don’t think we’ll ever know the answer to this question.

I’ve never heard either of the theories expressed in the OP. What I’ve read was that Hoover wanted total control over what kinds of crime the FBI worked on, and organized crime just had too many negatives and difficulties for him to want to tackle. He wanted nothing but good press, and to even acknowledge that some kind of near-national criminal organization existed and was flourishing would make the FBI look like it was failing in its duty to protect America.

According to Athan G. Theoharis in The FBI: a comprehensive reference guide, until the 1957 Apalachin meeting reason 1 of the OP held sway with Hoover. After a report concluded that the Mafia did exist he began to allocate more resources. However the primary sources of information before the 70s were illegal bugs and wiretaps so subsequent prosecutions weren’t possible.

Whether or not prosecutions were possible shouldn’t affect their public stance as to whether the Mafia even existed.

I have heard that Hoover (at the behest of John F Kennedy) had his agents plant bugs in the hotel rooms used by Martin Luthor King. King was fond of prostitutes, and Hoover obtained many recordings of King;s extra-marital sexual activities.
These tapes were played for JFK and RFK, who (from accounts) relished them.
Is there ny book that covers this stuff?
How did Hoover get away with this? Was he convinced that MLK was a communist?