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Charles Kuralt's FBI File

J. Edgar Hoover's snoops spied on one of Charlotte's favorite sons

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Thompson was impressed by the CBS report from the Dominican Republic. "It was a damn good job," he wrote in a letter to Kuralt. "Somehow, you have developed a sort of [Edward R.] Murrow image, a gaunt and baleful presence that implies authority, credibility, a tone of reluctant judgment on the actions and affairs of less candid men."

The guardians of national security were not so enthusiastic, and the show earned Kuralt one more mention in the FBI's files. This time, the allegations of disloyalty came from a fellow American newsman.

As FBI Director Hoover closely monitored suspected journalists, he maintained close ties to sympathetic ones. One of his press contacts, William Hearst Jr., son of the historic media magnate, wrote a letter to the FBI listing "newsmen alleged to be distorting the news" about the Dominican intervention. Kuralt's name was on the list.

As a result, on June 30, 1965, an FBI officer wrote a memo summarizing what the bureau knew about Kuralt and other journalists who had reported on the intervention. The document noted that the journalist had visited Cuba and had been accused, and absolved, of having "slanted his reports in favor of Castro." But a short note at the end, under the heading "Observation," noted that Kuralt and another reporter "appear to the ones who have allegedly printed stories favoring anti-US elements" in the Dominican conflict.

As publicly released, the document is riddled with deletions, making it impossible to determine how far the FBI went to keep tabs on Kuralt. As is often the case, Hoover's file on Kuralt raises more questions about the bureau than it does about its subject. Until more of the file is declassified, the FBI's actions will remain obscured by the fog of secrecy.

At present, the papers do offer two clear findings. First, that Kuralt's reports from countries caught up in the Cold War prompted the FBI to suspect his loyalty to the United States -- his own country, a country he was enamored with. Second, that after all was said and done, Kuralt's name is right where the FBI agent who visited the campus newspaper office had said it would be: "in the files forever."

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