With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

The interview that was too hot for the Senate Historical Office

Robert Eugene Baker's reminiscence about alleged East German spy Ellen Rometsch gives new meaning to the term “oral history.”

She really loved oral sex. … Bill Thompson [a lobbyist] … said [of Rometsch], ‘Baker, where did you get that good-looking woman? ... You think if I invited her to my apartment she’ll go to the White House and see President Kennedy?’ I said, ‘She would jump at the chance.’ So she went to the White House several times. And President Kennedy called me and said it’s the best head-job he’d ever had, and he thanked me....

She told me that of all the people she had met … the nicest one was Congressman Jerry Ford [R-Mich.]. [FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover could not find out the happenings when the Warren Commission was investigating the killer of President Kennedy. … J. Edgar Hoover could not find out what they were doing. So, he had this tape where Jerry Ford was having oral sex with Ellen Rometsch....

Baker, a Senate political aide from 1942 to 1963, when he was forced to resign as Secretary of the Senate amid allegations of corruption and sexual impropriety, was the subject of a recent story by Todd S. Purdum in POLITICO Magazine. The transcript of Baker's oral history interviews with the Senate Historical Office, Purdum wrote, “was so ribald and riveting, so salacious and sensational, that the Historical Office refrained from its usual practice of posting such interviews online.”

However, former Senate historian Donald Ritchie (who also conducted the oral history interviews with Baker in 2009 and 2010) noted in an email that the physical transcript has been available to researchers at both the Library of Congress and the National Archives, but “it was a little too raw to post on the Senate's website.”

POLITICO's publication of Baker's Senate memories was the result of serendipity -- Purdum discovered the Baker transcript while researching a book on the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The full text of the 230-page transcript is available on POLITICO's website.