The Newport scandal arose in 1919 following a poorly thought through exercise to investigate suspected homosexuals in the US Navy. It created controversy because of the methods used, and how enlisted personnel were also used in the investigation. One of the methods used to “weed out” homosexuals was by performing oral sex on enlisted men. Who could have, or would have ever signed off on such a messed up idea? You will be surprised to learn that it was a future president, and the longest serving one at that.
Before Franklin D. Roosevelt became the longest serving, and generally regarded as one of the best presidents of the United States, he was the assistant secretary of the Navy. While the Navy secretary was in Europe Roosevelt approved a secret plan for an undercover Navy unit to investigate homosexuality within the armed services. Part of the undercover units “operations” were to perform oral sex on other service personnel in order to entrap the gay ones. One of the men the unit sought to entrap was a clergyman. Seventeen sailors charged with sodomy and scandalous conduct. Two were acquitted, two were dishonourably discharged, and the remainder were sentenced to prison terms. How could anyone allow for this happen?
The Newport, Rhode Island’s Naval Base had received quite a few complaints about servicemen soliciting sex at the base. The Navy sought to remove these men from the service, and sought approval for the unusual methods they wished to apply in entrapping the sailors. The person that placed his approval to the unit was none other than FDR.
You would think that such a scandal would have ruined a political career. FDR claimed memory lapse and he never admitted signing off on the plan. The Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and FDR were both rebuked by a congressional committee for their parts in the Newport sex scandal.