In the summer of 2006, journalist Peter Shinkle first heard that his great-uncle Bobby, also known as Robert Cutler, had a secret that could have brought down the Eisenhower presidency: he was gay, at a time when gay people were barred from employment by the federal government.
Cutler was the nation's first Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (now called the National Security Advisor), the closest confidante in the President's inner circle. The likes of McGeorge Bundy, Henry Kissinger, Zbignew Brzezinski, Condoleeza Rice, Susan Rice, and four men since the start of the Trump presidency, would later fill his shoes.
In Shinkle's new biography, Ike's Mystery Man: The Secret Lives of Robert Cutler (published 2018 by Steerforth Press), he reveals Cutler's full story for the first time, and shows how valued he was by Eisenhower as a trusted friend and advisor on security and Cold War policy. This was during a time when gays were banned from employment in the federal government, with an executive order from President Eisenhower himself.
Shinkle read Cutler's autobiography, No Time for Rest, and started digging through thousands of pages of formerly-secret documents at the Eisenhower Library in search of answers. An archivist introduced him to Stephen Benedict, a former White House colleague of Cutler's who is gay. Benedict gave Shinkle Cutler's six-volume diary where Cutler poured out his feelings for Skip Koons, a member of the National Security Council staff. Benedict had also preserved photos, audio recordings and hundreds of letters written among Bobby, Skip and himself in which they shared professional and personal news and concerns, ranging from fears that the FBI would discover their sexual orientation to the possibility of nuclear Armageddon.
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Peter Shinkle worked for 19 years as a reporter at various news organizations, including most recently the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He graduated from the University of Virginia and received his master's degree in journalism from the Columbia University School of Journalism. Shinkle is the great-nephew of Robert Cutler, a close associate of President Eisenhower who was the first person to hold the position of national security advisor. He lives with his wife in Barrington.
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