During the mid-1930s, the FBI’s public relations department had effectively changed the image of its agents from accountants into action heroes; and its director, from a bureaucrat into an American icon. They pushed stories about heroic G-men facing off against violent foes, gunning them down in self-defense. And the press ate it up. But in April 1939, an FBI agent shot and killed a small town bank robber — in the back. The real story didn’t fit the FBI’s new heroic narrative. So Hoover changed it. Using his public relations machine, Hoover would twist the average story of a small-time midwestern criminal into one final, heroic, spellbinding triumph of the FBI.
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