From the mouth of feminist icon Gloria Steinem, 82, an admission that she had worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Below is my transcript of the undated interview with a young Gloria Steinem.
Beginning at the 0:14 mark:
Interviewer: “When did your association with the CIA start and in what fashion — they come to you, or did you go to them?”
Steinem: “In 1958, when I came home from India, I discussed with student leaders past and present, many of them with the National Student Association, this kind of small foundation to encourage Americans to go. They thought it was a good idea too. I was then told by foundations and professors and friends that I should not do this, that I would get in trouble with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, the American Legion, all of those ’50s people. And I became convinced that it was impossible. It was at that point that the student leaders said to me that they had in the past received funds for international programs from the CIA, and that they felt this was important and could also be partly funded by the CIA.”
Note: The National Student Association (NSA) was a confederation of college and university student governments that was in operation from 1947 to 1978. From the early 1950s until 1967, the international program of the NSA, and some of its domestic activities, were underwritten by clandestine funding from the CIA. The revelation of the NSA’s ties to the CIA sparked a national scandal but did not measurably damage the NSA’s standing with student governments. The NSA formally cut its ties with the CIA. In 1969, the NSA held its annual meeting in El Paso, Texas, where thousands of student delegates overwhelmed the city, particularly the Hotel Cortez, with music, drugs, and free love. The NSA originally housed the United States Student Press Association (USSPA), and its news agency, College Press Service (CPS). In 1978 the NSA merged with the National Student Lobby (NSL), to form the United States Student Association (USSA).
Interviewer: “Did you feel that you really tried. I mean did you go around to all the wealthy private foundations, wealthy private people, and explain your point of view, and explain why you felt it was important that the United States be represented in a certain way. What did they tell you?”
Steiner: “Uh, they told me that, well, the Ford Foundation for instance told me that they thought we were too liberal and too controversial and that we would endanger their cultural programs in Austria — the first festival was being held in Vienna. It was not encouraging at all, and the private individuals to whom I went often had particular points of view to put forward which would have been much, much more restricting than the CIA funds which were free — I mean no one was told what to say.”
Interviewer: “Do you mean to say it was easier for you to work with the CIA than a private –”
Steinem: “That’s right, that’s right, and the reason I think that comes as a surprise. It did to me at the time. I had the conventional liberal view that the CIA is a right-wing incendiary group, and I was amazed to discover that this was far from the case, that they were enlightened liberals, non-partisan activists of the sort who characterized the Kennedy Administration, for instance”
Interviewer: “You have not been working there for the CIA since 1962. You still criticized, you were there in Washington.”
Steiner: “Yes, when the story broke that I had once been, for years, a Central Intelligence agent, I was demonstrating outside the Pentagon underneath Mr. McNamara’s office against bombing in Vietnam. And this didn’t precisely fit with the image of a CIA agent, but then neither did the CIA.”
Note: Robert McNamara (1916–2009) was U.S. Secretary of Defense under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson; and president of the World Bank.
In May 1975, Redstockings, a radical feminist group, published a report on the Vienna Youth Festival that Steinem and others had put together for the Independent Research Service. Though she acknowledged having worked for the CIA-financed foundation in the late 1950s and early 1960s in interviews given to the New York Times and Washington Post in 1967 in the wake of the Ramparts magazine CIA exposures (nearly two years before Steinem attended her first Redstockings or feminist meeting), Steinem in 1975 denied any continuing involvement. An essay, ‘The Religious Crusades of the CIA,’ in the popular online magazine Indiafacts has noted that Gloria Steinem visited Kerala [India] and worked with an American Protestant missionary in 1957 which falls into the time frame described by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in his admission that the CIA interfered in Indian politics.