Rep. Steve Cohen vowed to renew the push to remove former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the bureau’s downtown Washington headquarters, according to an interview released Monday.
Appearing on Yahoo! News’ Skullduggery podcast, the Tennessee Democrat said the effort is getting a fresh look after the release of a new movie highlighting the FBI’s secret program to discredit civil rights activists.
The Washington Times in 2019 first reported Democrats’ bid to strip the longtime FBI director’s name from the bureau’s headquarters.
Mr. Cohen said the impetus to revive the bid is the new movie, “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The movie details the FBI’s secret, decades-long COINTELPRO program aimed at undermining Black civil rights activists in the 1960s.
COINTELPRO ultimately led to the 1969 killing of Fred Hampton, a leader of the Chicago Black Panthers.
Martin Sheen plays Hoover in the film.
Mr. Cohen said since the movie’s release, 22 Democrats have reintroduced a bill to wipe Mr. Hoover’s name off the building. No Republicans have signed on to the bill.
“That movie has gotten a grand reception, and it showed the interactions between the Chicago police and the FBI in the murder of Fred Hampton,” Mr. Cohen said. “That was part of COINTELPRO, J. Edgar Hoover’s organized effort to make sure there was not a Black leader who would rise up for civil rights and better conditions in the Black community.”
“This is an ugly part of our past that is not well known,” Mr. Cohen continued.
Shaka King, the film’s director, appeared on the podcast. He dismissed the bill to strip Hoover’s name as a “cosmetic” change. Mr. King, who is Black, said the bureau needs to do more to account for Mr. Hoover’s racial legacy.
“Cosmetic change is change of some kind, but it’s not really any kind of redress,” Mr. King said on the podcast. “It’s not fixing anything. It’s actually a fairly hollow statement. A real statement is, ‘Let’s take a look at COINTELPRO and the damage it’s caused, and let’s engage in some historic justice.”