Light beer is as American as apple pie, and Miller Lite is one of America’s favorite light beers. But what if I told you that the marketing man behind the creation of the Miller Lite brand was investigated by the FBI for being a communist? That’s the startling revelation that has come to light based on newly released documents that I obtained today from the National Archives.
When George Weissman died in 2009, he was remembered for his years as an executive at America’s largest tobacco company: Philip Morris. An expert branding man, he not only helped define the image of the now-notorious Marlboro Man character but also helped invent Miller Lite—ushering in a new wave of light beer fanaticism to the United States.
The one thing that the obituaries didn’t mention? The FBI’s file on Weissman, which details his alleged associations with the Communist Party in the 1940s, both before and after he served in the United States Navy during World War II.
The file details various friends and informants snitching on Weissman as being a Communist in the 1940s, as well as the letters he’d write to the headquarters of the Communist Party in New York.
The FBI also followed up in the 1970s when they investigated Weissman’s involvement with an organization called Executives Move For Peace in Vietnam. It appears that the FBI considered protesting the war in Vietnam to be more dangerous than selling a product that killed tens of thousands of Americans every year.
I obtained Weissman’s 26-page file through a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI that was then sent to the National Archive and Records Administration, where his file had been transferred. Curiously, NARA redacted three of the 26 pages in full under a b1 exemption. The b1 exemption deals with national security or foreign policy issues that the Bureau would rather not disclose.
It appears that the Nixon White House was the one inquiring about Weissman in October of 1973, which is why the last page of the file was produced.
That page notes that the FBI’s 1940s investigation into Weissman’s alleged Communist activities could not be independently established. It’s not entirely clear from the file why the Nixon administration was interested in Weissman, though it was later revealed that Weissman was on one of Nixon’s many political enemies lists.
The entire FBI file on George Weissman is below.