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Reply #62: Rowan and Martin's “Laugh-In”: a Robert Maheu Production? [View All]

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MinM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-15-08 11:03 PM
Response to Reply #3
62. Rowan and Martin's “Laugh-In”: a Robert Maheu Production?

Biography: Robert Maheu
To me, the most interesting and least discussed piece of the Watergate puzzle is the piece related to Howard Hughes. By the early sixties, the Hughes corporation was already enmeshed with the CIA. Hughes had selected Robert Maheu to run his organization. Maheu had been a CIA asset for years, and was their chosen “go-to” guy when the Agency decided to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Howard Hughes knew before President John Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy did that the CIA was trying to kill Castro. Hughes found out when Maheu had to ask for a leave of absence to run the operation.

The Kennedy brothers found out about the plots shortly after the FBI uncovered a bugging operation in Las Vegas. Sam Giancana, one of the Mafia members hired to kill Castro, had suspected his mistress Phyllis McGuire was having an affair with Dan Rowan (of the Rowan and Martin “Laugh-In” comedy team). Maheu, as a favor to Giancana, hired a Florida detective to bug Rowan’s hotel room
. But the detective left his equipment in plain sight, and the maid reported the equipment to the police, who contacted the FBI. The CIA admitted to Hoover that CIA was directly involved in the bugging and convinced Hoover not to further investigate. The CIA then told Robert Kennedy about the CIA’s use of Giancana in a plot to kill Castro. Given that Robert Kennedy had faced Giancana down in a courtroom (where he famously accused Giancana of giggling like a little girl), trying to prosecute him for Mafia activities, Robert was understandably furious at CIA for using the Mob, and furious at them trying to kill Castro.

In its own Inspector General Report, the CIA reported that while they told Kennedy about the plots that had already concluded, they never divulged that additional plots that were continuing. I’ll do a separate post on the Castro plots at some point -– but my conclusion will be the same as that in the CIA’s internal study, which no proponent of the Kennedys' guilt in this matter ever cites: the Kennedys never approved any plots to kill Castro. The CIA, by its own admission, had no executive authority for these plots.

In 1968, John Meier, who worked for Howard Hughes, learned inadvertently of the CIA’s relationship with Howard Hughes when Maheu told Meier that Michael Merhage was going to be working with them in South America, asking Meier to help Merhage with contacts in Ecuador. Meier did, not knowing that Merhage was not really a Hughes employee, but a CIA employee using Hughes’ company for cover. Merhage assumed that Meier was himself CIA, and spoke openly to Meier about the Agency’s interest. (Merhage was so bumbling that one of Meier’s Ecuadoran contacts told Meier they had figured Merhage for an agent right away.)

Merhage’s next bumble takes us right back to the primary subject of this article. Thinking Meier was a CIA man like himself, Merhage gave Meier a directive from the CIA to Hughes dated September 2, 1968, containing a list of American politicians the CIA wanted funded through the Hughes corporation. Among the names Strom Thurmond, Wallace Bennett, Paul Laxalt, James Eastland, and many others, was the name Gerald R. Ford. The CIA wanted Hughes to give money to Ford’s campaign. (Source: “Hughes, Nixon, and the CIA: The Watergate Conspiracy Woodward and Bernstein Missed,” by Larry DuBois and Laurence Gonzales, Playboy, September, 1976.) Was the agency rewarding Ford for his service on the Warren Commission?

Shortly after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, John Meier had occasion to speak with J. Edgar Hoover, whom he knew personally. Hoover told Meier that the FBI knew that Maheu had been responsible for the hit on Bobby Kennedy, but that he was powerless against the CIA. He was, of course, powerless, so long as that blackmail photo was out there. (For more on this episode, see my articles on the Robert Kennedy assassination in The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK and Malcolm X. And while Meier’s credibility is shaky on some issues, I believe it was more than a coincidence that Robert Maheu called John Meier out of the blue, after ten years, the very day I was en route to see Meier. And when I met Meier, it was to talk about a different topic, not the RFK case, which I had not yet written about. This came up tangentially, which made his assertion all the more credible, I felt.)

Two years later, Hoover cut off all communication between the FBI and the CIA. I know Hoover couldn’t have done that without risking the exposure of that photo unless he had, by then, put together counterblackmail material. I wonder if Hoover’s independence from CIA came, at least in part, from something Hoover could prove about the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968.

After Robert Kennedy’s assassination, the CIA’s relationship with the Hughes organization became even closer. Hughes ordered Maheu to seize the moment and hire away Robert Kennedy’s political organization. Hughes, ever Machiavellian, knew that Larry O’ Brien and other top lieutenants from Bobby’s campaign would be jobless. Maheu was tasked with hiring them into the Hughes organization. If the CIA was behind the assassination of Robert Kennedy, what better way to keep Kennedy’s closest associates dependent for their lives and careers on the CIA? In any case, this simple act paved, in many ways, the start of the road to Watergate...

The Secret History of the CIA - Google Book Search
Deep Politics and the Death of JFK - Google Book Search
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