Eartha Kitt Exposed Why The CIA Tried To Destroy Her In Secret Investigation
The late Eartha Kitt may have only stood 5’4″ tall, weighed about a buck 0-5, and was famously known as the “sex kitten’ who seduced Santa with her words in her song, “Santa Baby” (and later seduced Eddie Murphy in Boomerang, LOL), but let’s not forget that she was also a very dedicated and outspoken social activist.
That brings us to this CIA investigation that began in the late 1960’s on Ms. Kitt. She was furious to find out that she was being investigated like she was a criminal and it all stemmed from the time she spoke out at a White House function in 1968 and made President Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife cry like a baby in front of a room full of folks. Here is what was reported in the New York Times in 1968:
Singer Eartha Kitt stunned fellow guests at a White House luncheon and left Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson in tears Thursday when she declared angrily that the Vietnam War was causing American youth to rebel in the cities.
About 50 white and Negro women invited to the White House to discuss President Johnson’s proposals to combat crime in the streets sat at their tables in embarrassed silence as Miss Kitt delivered an emotional tirade against the war.
“You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed,” she told her fellow guests. “They rebel in the street. They will take pot…and they will get high. They don’t want to go to school because they’re going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam.”
Mrs. Johnson rose afterward and looked directly at the singer, who leaned against a podium. “Because there is a war on–and I pray that there will be a just and honest peace–that still doesn’t give us a free ticket not to try to work for better things such as against crime in the streets, better education, and better health for our people,” Mrs. Johnson said, her voice trembling and tears welling in her eyes.
The President had dropped in on the luncheon briefly, and answered a pointed question from Miss Kitt, but left before her outburst. Miss Kitt, her eyes flashing in defiance while she puffed on a cigarette and jabbed a finger at her startled audience, said American youth are “angry because their parents are angry…because there is a war going on that they don’t understand.” She told Mrs. Johnson that youngsters feel alienated because “they can’t get to you and they can’t get to the President, and so they rebel in the streets.”
After that, Eartha was ridiculed by a governor’s wife who was also in the audience and that forced Eartha to go even farther…after she briefly apologized:
Miss Kitt rose during a question-and-answer period afterward and apologized for speaking up if she had offended the President and his wife. But, she said, turning to the other well-dressed guests. “I have to say what is in my heart.” She said she had not walked the streets of ghettos as a crusader as some of the other guests had, but “I have lived in the gutters.”
“I’m sorry,” Mrs. Johnson replied. “I cannot understand the
things that you do. I have not lived with the background that you have. I cannot
speak as passionately or as well as you. But I think we have made advances in
these things and we will do more.”
Eartha shot back at Mrs. Johnson again:
“We have to realize where the truth really is,” she said, pointing her finger at the guests who sat transfixed. “The children of America are not rebelling for no reason. They are not hippies for no reason at all. We don’t have what we have on Sunset Blvd. For no reason. They are rebelling against something. There are so many things burning the people of this country, particularly mothers. They feel they are going to raise sons–and I know what it’s like, and you have children of your own, Mrs. Johnson–we raise children and send them to war.”
She said that today’s youth feels there is no reason to be a “good guy.” He would rather go to jail as a “bad guy” and avoid the draft, she said. “They feel that if they have any life, it’s best to live because they may not be here tomorrow.”
Much respect to Eartha for keeping it beyond real with Mrs. Johnson and bravely stating her thoughts, especially during an era where it was unheard of for an African American women to do such a thing. Of course Ms. Kitt faced a ton of backlash that ended up damaging her career greatly after word got out about her White House melee…
Here is what President Johnson’s pastor publicly wrote to him the following day, regarding Eartha Kitt’s words:
“I commend you for all the work you have been doing to urge more justice and opportunity, especially for Negroes, and because all the Americans are in a sense a family, I apologize for any member of that family including Negroes who are ill-mannered, stupid, and arrogant.”
Almost immediately, Eartha, who was in high demand at that time, began to feel the backlash as nightclub owners and producers she was under contract with got scared and ended her shows at their facilities. Ms. Kitt may have felt the brunt of that backlash in her pocketbook, but she still NEVER backed down from voicing her views:
“For years I went along with the idea that entertainers should not get involved with politics. Today, I realize that because of our contact with the public, we have to speak out, to make those who are responsible more aware of what is happening where they perhaps cannot see. Particularly someone like myself, who has lived the life of poverty.”
Kitt started performing in Europe after finding it hard to book gigs in America and on her return back to America in 1975 she found out the CIA had been damaging her career and her character by allegedly spreading false rumors about her in the media and that they had her under investigation since 1968 after the Secret Service asked them to do so following her White House convo.’ Needless to say, Eartha was pissed and she didn’t hesitate to put the CIA on full blast to the media:
“This is too much. This is more than I can or will take. I am determined to do my part in stopping the gradual erosion of American freedom.
If this is not done, the day when the enemies of freedom–be they Communist, Fascist, or what have you–walk right in and take over our country will come sooner than most of us are inclined to think. As for reports of the CIA’s invasion of my right to privacy, I am insulted, disappointed, and annoyed, but I don’t find it particularly surprising. This is only one of a number of hardships that I have had to endure since making those remarks in 1968.
Following my little talk at the White House, most of my nightclub and hotel engagements in this country were canceled–even though contracts had been entered into. That I should be singled out appears, at first glance, to be puzzling. Scores of Hollywood, television, and music personalities, both American and foreign-born, have been far more critical of America’s foreign and domestic policies than I have. The difference, of course, is that I am not Barbara Howar or Jane Fonda or Candice Bergen. I am a black woman. I have always known that racism was widespread in America; after all, I spent most of my childhood in South Carolina on a cotton plantation and in the streets of Harlem. But it took the aftermath of the 1968 incident to prove to me just how deeply racial prejudice is rooted in the American national character. Because I am black, I had to be taught a lesson, and put back into my place as a singing, dancing, mindless automaton who saw no evil, did no evil, and most important, publicly spoke no evil.
In my case, the CIA apparently didn’t even have accurate information. For example, the news stories said the agency had learned I did “not associate with other black persons.” That’s nonsense. I have always taken an interest in the black community, even before it became fashionable to do so. I taught dancing at the Harlem YWCA as early as 1952, and have been teaching a dance class in Watts for almost 10 years.
I don’t regret anything that I’ve said or done. I have suffered a lot financially, but I have survived. I only have pity and sympathy for those who tucked their moral tails in between their legs and cuddled up to the Johnson and Nixon administrations’ immoral and unjust policies.”
Eartha Kitt’s name deserves to forever be immortalized next to others in history who were public warriors and stood up for what they believed for the greater good of justice for all people…no matter the cost or structural damage to the foundation of a career they’d built.