On the Matter of Karl Rove’s Father

Posted in: Featured, Moore Thoughts | By: | March 16, 2010

In his book and the various interviews and speeches surrounding publication, Karl Rove has made a point of attacking information Wayne Slater and I reported and published regarding Rove’s background and the formative years of his political belief system.  The topic he has seemed most prickly about deals with his father’s sexual orientation.  As is his practice, Rove ignores facts to practice skilled denial.

Louis Rove’s personal life was nobody’s business until his adopted son decided to make gay rights a wedge issue in the campaigns of George W. Bush.  Rove, who recently pleaded for privacy during the divorce from his wife Darby, pushed policies in campaigns that were designed to interfere in the private lives of gays, lesbians, and transgender people.  Rove has no right to demand privacy when he refuses to respect it in the lives of other individuals and families.  His relationship with his father is context for his politics and interest in his father is a consequence of those politics.

When he was interviewed by Matt Lauer on The Today Show, Rove said he had no idea if his father was gay.  If this is the case, Karl was one of the few people who knew Louis Rove that was not aware of his sexual orientation.  In our book, The Architect: Karl Rove and the Dream of Absolute Power, (I disagreed with the publisher’s hyperbolic subtitle), I interviewed several people in Palm Springs, California about Louis Rove and his politically ambitious son.  Joseph Koons, who was Louis Rove’s best friend for 13 years, told me, “Louie didn’t hide the fact that he was gay. But he didn’t play it up either.  We had lots of gay and straight friends.  I was never the effeminate type and neither was Louie.  We didn’t play it up that way, either.  But he was gay.  And so am I.”

Although Joe Koons, a retired insurance company executive, was the only one of Louis Rove’s gay friends to go on the record for our book, two other neighbors were quoted and confirmed that Rove had lived openly as a gay man.  Koons took Rove to numerous social gatherings with other older gay men but Louis preferred to spend his time at home in his Palm Springs neighborhood.  Koons said he was not romantically involved with Louis but was as “close as a brother” and that Karl was completely aware of his father’s sexual orientation.

During an interview for our first book on Rove, Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, we asked the president’s political guru about the causes for the breakup of his parent’s marriage and what might have driven his mother, Reba Wood Rove, to commit suicide.  At the time, we were not aware of Louis Rove’s sexual orientation and were simply asking Karl to speculate because he remembered so vividly his father coming home on Christmas Eve, an ensuing argument, and then the end of the marriage without any real explanation from his mother.  An astute observer even at 19 when the marriage failed, Rove continues to claim 40 years later that he had no clue then or now that his dad way gay.  When I went to Palm Springs in 2005 prior to the publication of The Architect, one of Louis Rove’s neighbors literally laughed when I told him Karl claimed he didn’t know what happened to his parents’ marriage.

“He [Karl] was obviously hurt by the divorce.  It’s just absurd when he says, ‘I had no idea what the problems were with my parents and their marriage.’  He knew damned good and well what was going on.  His father had decided to come out of the closet.”

In fact, according to Louis Rove’s friend Koons, Rove not only knew his father’s sexual orientation but also was comfortable with it and had accepted his father’s honesty.

“I don’t recall that there was any great tension over it,” Koons told me during the 2005 interview.  “I don’t know how much impact that plays in the family and when they did find out about it.  Karl is certainly not dumb.  I am sure he knows more than anyone about his father’s position.  The times I spent with Karl and Louie were wonderful and Karl was always just very, very nice.”

Karl, in fact, according to Koons and Louie Rove’s neighbors, was a frequent visitor to Palm Springs beginning in the 80s and vacationed almost annually with his father in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It would have been difficult for Rove to not know this fundamental fact about his father.

Rove does get one thing correct in his book.  He said that we wrote his father, “after living openly as a gay man,” died quietly at home while his son was in the midst of launching the anti-gay issues campaign that was to lead to the re-election of George W. Bush.”  In his TV interviews, Rove twisted this around to make it sound like we were portraying him as a man who had denied his father, which was not the case.  The chapter in our book regarding Louis and Karl Rove repeatedly makes it clear that Bush’s Brain honored and loved Louis.

Lastly, I want to say bluntly I don’t give a damn about Louis or Karl Rove’s personal lives.  But when Karl decided that the private and personal lives of other consenting adults needed to be corrected to suit the moral imperatives of his party’s political desires, well, then Karl turned his family into a part of the narrative.  As he promotes his revisionist paperweight around the country, he is allowed to take an aggrieved stand of someone whose privacy has been invaded by amoral journalists.  What about the lives harmed or ruined by the sexual politics of Rove’s mean-spirited campaigning?  How is that measured?

Originally, I had told friends I did not want to be drawn into discussions about Rove’s book.  I’ve come to resent the poisonous nature of the discourse in our national politics.  The notion, however, that silence is consent is more than a little unsettling.  Rove started his political ascension with lies and he has now published a book that is filled with a new set of lies that attempt to convince the entirety of America that during the Bush administration everybody got everything wrong; except for Karl and President Bush.  This, too, is another Rove lie.  And it’s criminal for myself or anyone else to allow his lies to continue to live.

4 Comments for this entry

  • Joe Cutbirth

    Bravo, good man.

  • j levy

    Thank you for taking the time to address the facts of this issue. I too, do not care about Rove’s personal life but recoil at the hypocrisy of Rove and his gang. I respect your work and have learned much. Thank you.

  • Walt Borges

    Jim — I’m now teaching Politics and Media at George Mason (an old Rove stomping ground) in Virginia and I’m going to suggest my class read this. I think it provides substantial insight into how seriously some journalists take the ethical considerations of the process and how they think about the nexus of public and private issues. I really like this piece. Good work.

  • Thomas Britt

    I continue to enjoy your observations Jim.

    It is amazing how one man has had such a devatating effect on public discourse. I truly believe you can trace the ugliness of the town hall meetings and the frightening scene at the Capital last weekend back to his influence on the system. Very sad indeed.

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