Westbrook Pegler and the Anti-union Movement

In late December 1941, the editors of Time announced, “Reader nominations for Time’s Man of the Year are now closed. Latest tabulations showed President Roosevelt in front, Comrade Stalin second and Columnist Westbrook Pegler third.” For those who still remember him, such an indication of Pegler’s prominence might seem surprising. A self-described “professional dissenter,” he built a journalistic career that stretched from the 1920s to the early 1960s by taking iconoclastic stands. In the 1950s and 1960s, as his conservative views became more extreme and his writing increasingly shrill, he earned the tag of “the stuck whistle of journalism.” He denounced the civil rights movement, embraced anti-Semitism, and in the early 1960s wrote for the John Birch Society—until he proved too cantankerous for even its members. Those later years make it easy to fall into the mistake of dismissing him, but in 1941, as Time magazine’s readers made clear, Pegler’s long slide into decline remained in the future.[1]

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Pegler commanded respect and wielded great influence, a fact acknowledged by his friends and enemies alike. In an age when Americans were devoted readers, newspaper columnists exercised the kind of influence later reserved for radio shock jocks and television news shows. In a field of influential columnists in the 1930s and 1940s, Pegler stood out. In 1941 he became the first columnist ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. A year earlier the Saturday Evening Post described him as “undoubtedly one of the leading individual editorial forces in the country.” A survey of five hundred editors of daily newspapers, conducted by the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism in 1942, ranked him the nation’s “best adult columnist.” In the early 1940s his columns went out six days a week to 174 newspapers that reached an estimated 10 million subscribers.[2]

A 1942 article by George P. West in the liberal journal the New Republic referred to Pegler’s widespread influence by asserting sadly, “What we are up against is the Westbrook Pegler mind.” West blamed Pegler for “giving greater aid and comfort to our domestic fascists than any other one man in the United States.” But in the same article, West wrote that “in spite of the exasperation and disgust that his column often inspires when he either shows a perverse failure to see straight or hits below the belt in true guttersnipe fashion,” he still considered Pegler “my favorite reactionary.” He meant that as more than faint praise. “Pegler is an artist, a man of great courage, a hater of tyranny,” West explained, “and he calls the shots as he sees them.”[3]

In the late thirties and early forties, Pegler’s most pressing topic was union corruption and, by extension, what he considered a dangerous growth of union power fostered by the New Deal. In 1939 and 1940, he unmasked the criminal past and association with organized crime of two prominent union officials, William Bioff and George Scalise. He drew on those exposés to justify a campaign against union corruption, which he depicted as a rising scourge that stemmed from the New Deal’s National Labor Relations Act of 1935, better known as the Wagner Act. The law made collective bargaining a right for the nation’s workers, but Pegler argued that it also granted too much power to union leaders, a group he depicted as irresponsible and rapacious. Hammering away at this theme in his daily columns, he also used the anticorruption campaign to justify a broader critique of the New Deal. Pegler thereby helped formulate and popularize some of the key emerging conservative arguments against the growing role of the federal government. A study of Pegler’s campaign and its impact highlights the central role of corruption scandals in a counteroffensive mounted to push back the gains organized labor had made in the 1930s. Such a study also offers an important reminder of the way a new conservative movement, born of opposition to the New Deal, placed organized labor at the top of its agenda. Finally, it demonstrates the power of the journalistic exposé to focus public attention on a particular issue and thereby shift the country’s political landscape.

Although his supporters often pictured him as the lonely crusader who had dared to stand alone against union racketeers, Pegler’s efforts fit within a larger conservative movement that pushed the subject of union abuses onto the public agenda. (See figure 1.) This early stage of anti–New Deal conservatism has been largely overlooked by political historians who have tended to focus on trends and personalities on the right that rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s. The historian David M. Kennedy has recently written that the late 1930s saw the emergence of “the first systematic expressions of antigovernment political philosophy [which] had deep roots in American political culture but only an inchoate existence before the New Deal.” That period, Kennedy argued, marked a critical turning point in the history of twentieth-century conservatism. “The crystallization of this new conservative ideology, as much as the New Deal that precipitated its articulation, was among the enduring legacies of the 1930s.”[4]

Figure 1. This cartoon tribute to Westbrook Pegler by J. N. “Ding” Darling appeared in the New York Herald-Tribune on November 14, 1941, the day after the union leader William Bioff received a ten-year jail sentence for his conviction on federal extortion charges. The cartoon depicts a fearless Pegler using his pen to take on labor racketeers while the Roosevelt administration, Congress, and employers cower in fear. Courtesy J. N. “Ding” Darling Foundation.

Pegler’s campaign was central to that process of crystallization. He benefited from the support of a powerful conservative newspaper publisher, Roy Howard, who worked assiduously to build a political counterattack against the New Deal. In so doing, Howard unabashedly used his ability to influence news reporting. Beyond Howard’s role, the willingness of other publications, newspapers and magazines, to follow Pegler’s lead helped ensure that his campaign made a significant impact on public opinion. And as that opinion turned increasingly hostile toward organized labor, conservative politicians quickly seized on the issue. In the wake of Pegler’s campaign, the Republican party made opposition to union abuses a central part of its legislative agenda and a mainstay of its appeals to the electorate throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

Pegler’s exposés cast a shadow across a renascent union movement. The years since 1933, a period marked by bitter economic hardship, had witnessed a dramatic mobilization of workers, millions of whom enrolled in unions. While the gains made by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) receive more attention today, the American Federation of Labor’s (AFL) growth was equally impressive. By 1940, over 7 million American workers belonged to unions. About 2 million of them were in CIO-affiliated unions and over 4 million in AFL unions. By 1939, 25 percent of nonfarm workers belonged to unions, double the proportion in 1929. At the state and federal level, organized labor benefited from strong political alliances with the Democratic party, exemplified by the Roosevelt administration’s regard for union interests.[5] The corruption scandals exposed by Pegler tarnished the shine on this newly reborn labor movement, and they offered its opponents a useful weapon. The years 1940 and 1941 marked a turning point. Unions continued to grow for the next decade and a half, but their declining public image steadily de-legitimated their power. As a result they suffered defeats in the political arena that hamstrung their ability to respond to the eventual employer counteroffensive.

News Makers and Opinion Shapers

Franklin D. Roosevelt faced bitter opposition from an important group of newspaper publishers, among them Roy Howard, who led the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain and employed Pegler as one of his star columnists. Early in the Roosevelt administration, Howard had been a fervent supporter of the New Deal, but by early 1937 he had moved into the opposition. Howard joined the ranks of other powerful publishers whose ability—and willingness—to affect news coverage made them dangerous opponents of the New Deal. Critics at the time referred to them as the “press lords,” newspaper owners who were politically active, conservative, and capable of shaping public opinion. The press lords included Frank Gannett, the conservative owner of the nation’s third-largest newspaper chain; William Randolph Hearst, whose newspapers reached as many as 30 million readers a day; and Col. Robert R. McCormick, outspoken owner of the Chicago Tribune, a paper read daily by as many as a million residents of greater Chicago.[6]

These publishers actively sought to influence the news, and flagrant examples of their influence are often cited. In 1935 a memo reportedly sent to all Hearst editors and Universal News Service bureaus read, “The Chief [Hearst] instructs that the phrase ‘SOAK THE SUCCESSFUL’ be used in all references to the Administration’s Tax Program instead of the phrase ‘SOAK THE THRIFTY’ hitherto used, also he wants the words ‘RAW DEAL’ used instead of ‘NEW DEAL.'” As Howard joined the ranks of the opposition, he took similar steps to mold the news that appeared in his chain’s papers.[7]

Besides shaping their papers’ editorial policy, the conservative publishers of the 1930s had access to a journalistic innovation that gave them one more way to attempt to influence the public. Syndicated columnists had emerged at the turn of the century, and eventually specialized political commentators appeared. A format that spread from newspaper to newspaper placed the political columnists on the page opposite the paper’s editorials. In the 1930s syndicated columns proliferated and became a standard feature of newspapers across the country. The sociologists Helen Lynd and Robert Lynd remarked on the change in Muncie, Indiana’s newspapers from 1925 to 1935. “The outstanding innovation in Middletown’s [Muncie’s] newspapers is the increased share of signed syndicated features from Washington and New York in the news columns.”[8]

The growing popularity of syndicated columnists apparently stemmed from the need to give newspapers a human face. Standards of objectivity and business priorities increasingly pushed local publishers to make their product inoffensive, and as a result it grew dull. Columnists supplied interest, while insulating the local publisher from possible repercussions. Should this livelier and more opinionated writing happen to offend the paper’s readers, the publisher could disavow any connection with the ideas expressed. The publisher could thus have his cake and eat it too.[9]

Given the role they played, columnists had little reason to exercise moderation, and the most successful ones, such as Pegler, were known both for the intensity of their views and the ferocity with which they expressed them. Neither informed insight nor a reputation for fairness guaranteed a columnist success or influence over the public mind. Thus Raymond Clapper enjoyed widespread respect among his fellow journalists for his judicious reporting on the Washington scene, but in popularity his columns lagged behind Pegler’s. One commentator wrote of Clapper, “He was earnest, quietly honest, always painstaking and sometimes dull.” And Clapper himself ruefully acknowledged that the moderation of his views undercut his success. “I have often thought that one of my shortcomings as a newspaper columnist is that there are many days when I come down to the office without an opinion all white-hot and ready to burn its way through the typewriter and to the printed page.” Pegler’s columns might be less insightful than Clapper’s, but his opinions— strongly expressed and sure to generate a reaction—brought him a wider readership. Profiling him in 1940, the Saturday Evening Post explained that Pegler appealed to readers who “get a vicarious satisfaction out of his persistent swats at the objects of his displeasure. Thousands of others who find that they usually disagree with him, read his column as a kind of tonic for their adrenal glands. He infuriates them and they enjoy it.”[10]

Like the influence of other media, the precise impact of the syndicated column is hard to pin down. A survey by Fortune in 1937 found that about 35 percent of newspaper readers regularly followed the syndicated columns, and thus the magazine discounted their significance. But although that 35 percent constituted a minority of newspaper readers, they were likely to be better informed and more politically active than reader who ignored the columnists. Thus, as some observers noted, the nature of the columnists’ audience heightened their significance. Certainly, their critics feared the influence that columnists wielded. In his critical survey of the dangers presented by the conservative press, Harold Ickes, Roosevelt’s secretary of the interior, paid special attention to syndicated columnists. “Evidently these modern knights of the typewriter exert considerable influence on the public mind and therefore, they must be reckoned with as a major social-political force in the country.” President Roosevelt bitterly hated them as an institution, resenting their role in shaping the news that reached the general public.[11]

Figure 2. This autographed studio photograph of Westbrook Pegler is inscribed, “To the head-man with love from his #1 head-ache.” Pegler gave the photo to his publisher and longtime friend, Roy W. Howard, in 1937, signing it “Bud,” the name his closest friends used. Describing himself as a “headache,” Pegler acknowledged his prickly personality and his tendency to spark controversy. Courtesy Roy W. Howard Archive, School of Journalism, Indiana University.

Though the columnists made no claim to objectivity, they did present the appearance of independence, and that image constituted an important part of their appeal. Perched on the page opposite a newspaper’s official editorials, columnists lent an air of diversity to a publication, and editors could savor the views expressed while disavowing any responsibility for them. Yet columnists were less independent than they appeared to be. Publishers exerted influence over them via methods similar to those used to control news coverage.

Open censorship was less important than more indirect but consistent methods of influence. Publishers at times censored the columnists who worked for them, killing columns or excising sections. But such overt acts were comparatively rare. Roy Howard managed a stable of columnists through a corporate subsidiary of Scripps-Howard, and his correspondence reveals his reluctance to take such dramatic actions. Such censorship cost money, in the loss of columns that were already paid for, and it also undercut the value of the product Howard’s company sold by sullying the columnists’ reputation for independence.[12]

Instead, his correspondence indicates an ongoing campaign to encourage cooperation. This included getting columnists to focus on particular subjects and not others, as well as steering them to approach subjects from particular angles. In 1941 Howard wrote Scripps-Howard’s editor in chief about his management of Gen. Hugh Johnson, the former head of the National Recovery Administration turned popular political columnist. “I must say that in all fairness Johnson has been extremely tractable recently. I have explained to him my plan to move into this fight on the blank check bill gradually, and to have the pitch of our fight rise gradually. I have had a hundred percent co-operation on suggestions I have made to him on topics to be covered.” Given the columnists’ status as the stars of the editorial page, with the resultant egos and individual agendas, Howard did not always win such cooperation from his columnists. But he worked toward it tirelessly, handing out flattery here, avuncular advice there, and at times stern warnings.[13]

Scripps-Howard executives viewed Pegler as their most talented and most troublesome columnist, and they made every effort to win his cooperation. Howard had given Pegler his big break, hiring him to write a column in 1933, and that early support helped justify Howard’s regular practice of critiquing Pegler’s columns. Suggestions came in the form of tips on style and content. Howard framed the input as helpful and well-meaning advice, putting himself forward, not as a censor, but as one who sought to foster and then guard Pegler’s success. And a strong friendship between the two men, who had known each other for decades, eased Howard’s task. Moreover, the men shared similar political views, both coming to oppose the New Deal by the end of 1936. Their closeness meant that— without constant direction—the views expressed in Pegler’s columns reflected Howard’s politics. In a 1941 profile of the publisher, A. J. Liebling wrote that through Pegler’s columns Howard “had found his voice.”[14]

This close tie between the publisher and his star columnist formed the backdrop to Pegler’s crusade against union corruption because by the late 1930s Howard was focusing attention on the rise of organized labor. By the winter of 1936–1937, internal correspondence between Howard and other executives at Scripps-Howard showed increasing hostility to the Wagner Act. Tense relations with the Newspaper Guild formed the backdrop for this hostility, but so too did the wave of sit-down strikes, which began that December in Flint, Michigan. In February 1937 Howard wrote privately to one of his columnists, Hugh Johnson, “I think the Wagner law is a very faulty and poorly constructed piece of legislation. I’m not sure but the best thing that could happen would be to have it knocked out.” A year later, while having lunch with President Roosevelt, Howard insisted that revising the act should be at the top of the administration’s agenda.[15]

In the spring of 1940, Howard wrote to Scripps-Howard’s editor in chief explaining his rationale for harping on the union abuses that he blamed on the Wagner Act. The issue would highlight the way the New Deal expanded the power of the executive branch by catering to particular interests, among them the leaders of organized labor. “The fundamental criticism to be levied against the Roosevelt administration,” Howard wrote,
is that it has advanced government by man as against government by law. If we are going to continue to deserve rating as liberal newspapers we have an obligation, it seems to me, to wage unending warfare against government by man instead of government by law and I think the Wagner Act furnishes as good a stage and as good a setting as we could expect to find for making this fight.[16]

Thus as the 1930s came to a close, Howard and his colleagues at Scripps-Howard viewed the Wagner Act not just as a political issue of great significance, but as the best grounds on which to battle the New Deal. They also believed that their organization could and should draw public attention to the issue. In late August 1939, Howard encouraged his staff to prepare a series of editorials that would indict the law for making labor conditions worse and for ignoring the concerns of many working people.[17] Three months later Scripps-Howard’s star columnist, Howard’s good friend and informal spokesman, Westbrook Pegler began a series of columns that would evolve into a major campaign against union corruption.

Pegler’s Anti-union Campaign

As a successful journalist, Pegler responded to the priorities and concerns of his employer and friend, Howard, but the columnist’s writing also reflected his own concerns and priorities. They had been shaped by Pegler’s struggle to achieve financial success. He was the son of a Chicago newspaper writer who had barely managed to support his family on the meager wages typical in the lower ranks of journalism. At the age of sixteen, Pegler dropped out of a vocational high school to work as an office boy at the United Press’s (UP) Chicago Office. By eighteen he began writing as a cub reporter for the UP, which shifted him around its offices in the Midwest and West. His energy and ability evidently got him noticed. When the United States entered World War I, the UP sent him to cover the Allied Expeditionary Force in France; at twenty-three he was the youngest accredited American reporter on the western front.[18] After the war, he determined to make himself a sportswriter because, as he later remembered, he wanted “to make the most possible money out of my ability in the newspaper market at that time.” He honed his distinctive writing style, which combined lively, idiomatic prose with a skeptical but humorous perspective on the sports scene. He debunked and gently mocked the pretensions of sport, from the staged grudge matches of professional boxing to the alleged character-building qualities of college football. Financial success came by the late 1920s, as the Chicago Tribune hired him to write a regular column in the sports section. In 1933 Roy Howard offered him a nationally syndicated column on the opinions page, and as his popularity grew, he reportedly became one of the highest-paid writers in the news industry.[19]

Pegler considered his success hard won, and he bridled at any potential threat to it. He claimed to work twelve-hour days researching and writing his columns. Seeing himself as a hardworking reporter, Pegler joined the Newspaper Guild in 1934, when his fellow columnist Heywood Broun formed the union and first began organizing news writers and editorial staff. But in late 1936 and early 1937, Pegler stood against a proposed strike at the Scripps-Howard flagship paper, the New York World-Telegram. In so doing, he gained a new perspective on organized labor. He felt that he and other moderates were outmaneuvered at union meetings. “I didn’t like the Guild tactics,” he recalled in 1943, “and I watched them closely.” His stand made him a target for recrimination within the union, and he later recalled bitterly, “I began to see that Broun and the Guild were not opposed to kicking around in principle. It was okay with them if they could do the kicking around.” In the event of a strike, if he did not go along with the guild, he would be forced out of the union. Then, when the strike was settled, the guild could demand his removal, along with that of other strikebreakers, and bar him from working at any newspaper with a union shop contract. Pegler thought an unprincipled minority had gained the ability to threaten his hard-earned success, and the experience left him embittered and increasingly suspicious of unions.[20]

Given his financial circumstances, which differed dramatically from those of most reporters and editorial staffers, and his close ties to his employer, the publisher Howard, Pegler’s disaffection from the union was probably inevitable. It might well have developed regardless of how the meetings had been run. But Pegler always referred to this episode as his moment of disillusionment, and he used it to explain his decision to investigate misconduct in other unions. Pegler later wrote, “That was when I decided that unions were as dirty in their ways as the corporations ever were and, finally, that the rank and file had no chance under the present laws and the New Deal hypocrisy which persecuted and oppressed them through union bosses while pretending to befriend them.”[21]

His growing distrust of organized labor matched the experience of many Americans who viewed the CIO sit-down strikes in early 1937 with alarm. Roosevelt’s efforts to reorganize the Supreme Court in the same period exacerbated a growing conservative reaction. As Nelson Lichtenstein has written, “To many, and not only the Republican oldguard, both actions seemed to be assaults on the social order and property rights.” Pegler’s columns thus reflected both his own shifting views and changing public opinion. In 1937 he began criticizing both the lawlessness of the sit-down strikes and what he saw as the hypocrisy of liberals who failed to object to such job actions. Over the next two years his critique gradually expanded. A column denouncing the aggressiveness of John L. Lewis would appear and later another proclaiming the rights of non-union workers who wished to stay on the job during strikes.[22] Pegler’s positions were never set out methodically; rather, they accumulated as he turned again and again in his daily columns to the issue of unions. In general, his critique centered on the rights of individual workers, the one-sided nature of the Wagner Act, and the practices of unions.

He depicted himself as the guardian of the rights of the individual workers, often overlooked, he claimed, in the pro-union environment of the day. As early as January 1937, in the midst of the sit-down strikes, Pegler asserted, “American labor is a big term. It includes millions of unorganized working people and millions of others who belong to unions but aren’t orators or parliamentarians and have little or nothing to say about the actions of the smart professionals who run their affairs.” His point, which he repeated frequently for much of the rest of his career, was that non-union employees were workers too, whose rights should be considered, and that unions did not always represent the will of even their own members. Two years later, he portrayed himself as an advocate for “those who refuse to join unions, or [who] do join them under silent protest, [and] have lacked a means of presenting their case.” Such workers were the forgotten men of the new labor relations system. “The employer and the labor faker can make themselves heard, but the persecuted individual in the middle receives no hearing from the public and no respect from a government board [the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB] which was established with the frank purpose of assisting organized labor.”[23]

Individual workers and the public in general were left in the lurch, Pegler concluded, by basic flaws in the Wagner Act. The law granted unions too much power and imposed neither effective restrictions on their actions nor responsibilities on their governing bodies. “As it is,” he wrote in August 1939, “organized labor is assuming the powers of government without the responsibility of government, and with business in shackles that is a lopsided arrangement which cannot continue indefinitely.” In administering the law, the NLRB forced businesses to bargain and sign agreements with unions, but no legal authority existed to require unions to adhere to the contracts they had signed. Individual workers were made to join unions, he asserted, but then no one protected their legal rights within those bodies. Members could be expelled from their organization for simply opposing the incumbent officers and, once forced out of the union, could find themselves excluded from their occupations by closed shop agreements.[24]

Finally, unions engaged in practices that Pegler found increasingly objectionable. He abhorred the violence that occurred on the picket line and denounced “all of those labor fakers and pub-crawling liberals” who refused to condemn it. “It is my rather juvenile belief,” he wrote in the spring of 1937, “that a violation of law or denial of civil liberties is as bad on one side as on another, and therefore I see no choice between coercion by Henry Ford and coercion by someone from Union Square.” He objected to jurisdictional strikes in which rival unions interfered with commerce simply to settle internal union disputes. Secondary boycotts victimized innocent bystanders. Union finances were conducted without any effective government oversight, and abuses, Pegler claimed, were frequent. Some labor organizations set unreasonably high initiation fees, and the dues checkoff system (the automatic deduction of dues from an employee’s paycheck) constituted extortion, he claimed, because a member who did not pay would be expelled and denied work. Union political contributions forced members who might favor one political group to submit to a financial levy in support of another group or an ideal that they found objectionable. That the contributions went to the Democratic party particularly galled Pegler as his opposition to the Roosevelt administration increased.[25]

He carefully focused his criticisms, however, on the leadership of the unions, not the members, whom he depicted as victims, either unwitting or unwilling. In August 1939 George Meany, secretary-treasurer of the AFL, warned of a growing hostility in the public arena to working Americans. Pegler replied that Americans resented, not workers, but union leaders, or, as he called them, “unioneers.” The unioneers, Pegler charged, “have been dealing with working people in a manner comparable to that of the Chicago racketeers who sold ‘protection’ to businessmen.” Continuing his argument, Pegler wrote, “What he [Meany] should have said was that there had been a reaction against extortion, mob violence, racketeering … and the establishment of an irresponsible invisible government in the hands of union leaders.”[26]

The Exposé

Three months after writing that column, Pegler dramatically revealed that William Bioff, the West Coast representative of the president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators (IATSE), had a criminal record. Pegler demonstrated that Bioff was a Chicago racketeer, whose unsavory past made his current position of power a cause for alarm. Two months after unmasking Bioff, Pegler raised the case of George Scalise, president of the Building Service Employees International Union (BSEIU), who had a similar criminal record and maintained ties to organized crime figures.[27]

Pegler’s exposé gave his critique of organized labor a distinctive credibility and an impact that separated him from the larger anti-union movement. Businessmen and corporate lawyers had been leading organized opposition to unions since the turn of the twentieth century. Groups ranging from the National Erectors Association to the National Association of Manufacturers had criticized picket line violence and closed shop contracts for decades. Employers’ groups also had leveled charges of corruption against union leaders to discredit them. The employers’ obvious self-interest, however, undercut the credibility of their attack on union abuses. In 1920, for instance, the humorist Finley Peter Dunne mocked open shop employers for asserting that they supported “properly conducted” unions. His fictional Mr. Dooley explained what the term meant: “No strike, no rules, no contracts, no scales, hardly any wages, an ‘dam’ few members.” As a professional journalist, not a businessman or a corporate lawyer, Pegler could appear more disinterested while his investigations yielded startling revelations that besmirched unions.[28]

Pegler used a newspaperman’s weapon, an exposé of hidden corruption, both to attract the interest of the general public and to undercut the moral authority of the union movement. The muckrakers of the Progressive Era had pioneered the exposé. As the historian Richard L. McCormick has written, the muckrakers used investigative reporting to expose widespread political corruption and to arouse public indignation. Their impact, McCormick concluded, stemmed from the muckrakers’ ability to connect detailed revelations to a larger pattern of corruption that demanded reform. “The point is not simply that more people than ever before became aware of politico-business corruption,” McCormick explained, “but that the perception of such a national pattern itself created new political understandings.”[29] Pegler too offered detailed revelations and warned Americans of a dangerous pattern of corruption that demanded political change. But whereas the muckrakers had usually targeted corporations, Pegler applied their techniques to warn about the dangers posed by unions.

He also differed from the muckrakers in his writing style. Pegler eschewed the objective language of straightforward reporting in favor of an emotion-laden, tough-guy persona. As the Saturday Evening Post observed in 1940, “He writes with a typewriter ribbon dipped in acid and uses freely moralistic adjectives like vile, vicious, cunning, foul, degraded, low, filthy and immoral.” Later in his career, critics would conclude that he allowed the language of denunciation and innuendo to supplant real journalism, but in the late 1930s and early 1940s Pegler was described as “a good reporter.” The Printer’s Ink, an advertising industry journal, in 1941 praised him as “a hardboiled reporter who knows what he is talking about, who checks and double checks his material before printing it.” But the same article also claimed that Pegler’s impact stemmed from his “slam-bang” writing style. “The fact that he uses a meat ax rather than a rapier does not discount in the least from the strength and logic of his position. In fact, his slam-bang, almost cruel, handling of the matter is all to his credit; drama and plenty of it is needed in order that the issue may be presented in its true colors.”[30]

Pegler had begun writing about Bioff and the West Coast locals of IATSE in 1938, but originally he was looking for a story that would have offered a slightly different condemnation of organized labor. IATSE had become involved in a jurisdictional dispute with the Screen Actors Guild that seemed to involve the former’s efforts to expand and perhaps pressure the actors into a merger. Pegler saw the episode as a chance to highlight the aggressive empire-building tendencies of an AFL union and to raise the specter of left-wingers controlling the content of America’s films. But he soon became frustrated with efforts to shape that story out of the events unfolding. In March 1938, he informed readers of his column that if they found the stories on IATSE and the actors boring, “you have nothing on me, because for some reason it doesn’t jell, and after today to hell with it.” The story he hoped to find was not there. “I doubt that the Writers Union will grow enough muscle to impose a closed shop and an indirect but effective form of censorship, and it seems unlikely that the alliance of stagehands, gaffers and other block-gang will ever take over the beautiful dilettante-laborites of the Actors’ Union and cut a 10 per cent slice right off the top of those $200,000 and $400,000 salaries.”[31]

Figure 3. Pictured above are William Bioff’s arrest photo and police record from 1922, when the Chicago police arrested him on a charge of pandering (pimping). A report of the arrest, alongside an article entitled, “‘All Right, Gentlemen, Do We Get the Money?’: The Astonishing Success Story of Bad Boy Bioff in Movieland,” appeared in the Saturday Evening Post two months after Westbrook Pegler had exposed Bioff’s previous conviction. From the Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 27, 1940.

A year later, though, his efforts bore a different fruit, one that fit nicely with his emerging critique of unions and especially his emphasis on the dangerous, irresponsible power wielded by union leaders, or unioneers. After receiving tips from members of the actors’ union and from dissidents in IATSE’s West Coast locals about Bioff’s past criminal activities in Chicago, Pegler used a visit to that city to look into the matter. This time he found a story that suited his purposes. On November 22, 1939, his column opened on a dramatic note. “Willie Bioff, the labor dictator of the entire amusement industry of the United States and Canada and sole arbiter, on the union side, of problems affecting the 35,000 men and women of the mechanical crafts of Hollywood, was convicted of pandering in a trial before Judge Arnold Heap of the Chicago Municipal Court in February, 1922.” Pegler revealed that although Bioff had been sentenced to serve a six-month jail sentence, he had been released on bail after serving only seven days and had never been called back to complete his sentence. The column reported in vivid detail the crime for which Bioff had been convicted. He received money from prostitutes who worked in six rooms connected to a saloon, taking two or three dollars from each payment they received. Moreover, Bioff was reputedly a longtime associate of the Capone gang. In the weeks that followed, Pegler came back to the story, hectoring the state of Illinois to force Bioff to finish serving his sentence and mocking Bioff’s attempts to defend himself.[32]

Pegler’s focus eventually settled on William Green, the president of the American Federation of Labor, who, Pegler charged, had failed to speak out on the matter. “This is one of William Green’s most important unions, and Mr. Green’s comment on the revelations concerning Bioff, therefore constitute a resounding affirmation of the policy of the A.F. of L. on the subject of racketeers in the labor movement. Mr. Green has said exactly nothing. That is what makes his comment so resounding.” Pegler argued that Green was complicit and that his failure to police the AFL had allowed not just Bioff’s entrance into the house of labor, but a larger process of racketeer infiltration. “A roster of the officials of A.F. of L. unions presents a number of candidates for a rogues’ gallery,” Pegler charged. “To the extent that he persistently declines or neglects to interfere Mr. Green is himself a party to a state of affairs which is not only a disgrace to his organization but a much worse menace to organized labor than all the [Thomas] Girdlers and the Communists together.” (Thomas Girdler, the head of Republic Steel, was notorious for his ruthless opposition to unions.) The problem, Pegler concluded, was the corruption of much of the union’s leadership and the complaisant attitude of the remainder.[33]

On January 19, 1940, Pegler’s column took the form of an open letter to Green. In it Pegler dramatically revealed that Scalise, president of BSEIU, had been convicted for violating the Mann Act, engaging in “white slavery” as Pegler referred to it, and had served four and a half years in federal prison. In 1913 Scalise had been convicted of taking a young woman across state lines and receiving money from men with whom she performed sexual acts. As with Bioff, there were also allegations that Scalise associated with organized crime figures, in particular Frankie Yale and other Brooklyn mobsters. Pegler offered this revelation as a proof of his assertion that “the roster of officials” in the AFL “contained the nucleus for a good, major league rogue’s gallery.” But it also represented a challenge and a rebuke. Pegler wrote Green, “I can’t see how you can fail to know what he [Scalise] is, why you haven’t had him thrown out of the American Federation of Labor. Do you think it is doing the American Federation of Labor any good to permit such a man to be president of one of your big international unions or doing the rank and file working stiffs any good to subject them to the rule of a vicious mobster?”[34]

For Pegler the unmasking of Bioff and Scalise had a wider significance. It implicated the entire leadership of the American Federation of Labor and justified efforts to amend the Wagner Act. In February 1940 Pegler wrote,
I have recently named two racketeers in control of two big A.F. of L. international unions, but I could name a hundred thieves and gangsters, embezzlers and terrorists who hold office in unions of the American Federation of Labor. They infest the A.F. of L. to such a degree that the organization has negligently lost its right to public respect as a labor movement and has become the front for a privileged terror obviously comparable to the Mafia of Sicily.
For those who thought he made such charges for effect, Pegler claimed just the opposite. “Unfortunately for the A.F. of L. and labor, I do not exaggerate the facts. On the contrary, I speak only of my own knowledge and I don’t know the half of it. Next year, barring war, the national government will have to take action. This kind of thing can’t go on and the means of reform apparently do not exist from within.”[35]

Figure 4. The New York World-Telegram printed these side-by-side arrest photos of George Scalise on April 22, 1940, the day he was arrested on extortion charges. The caption reminds readers of the labor leader’s 1913 conviction for a Mann Act violation, referred to here as a “white slavery charge.” Westbrook Pegler had uncovered the 1913 conviction and used it to justify a journalistic campaign against Scalise in particular and union corruption in general. From the New York World-Telegram, April 22, 1940.

Pegler’s proposals for reform focused on revising the Wagner Act and included imposing new responsibilities on unions and protecting the individual rights of members. He sought to have unions banned from political involvement, particularly from making political donations. He wanted their strike activity to be more thoroughly regulated by the federal government, and he called for intrusive regulation of internal union affairs. Unions should be required to adhere to the contracts that they signed and banned from collecting dues through checkoffs. He regularly called for legislation to amend the act.[36]

The Downfall of Bioff and Scalise and the Vindication of Pegler

Both Bioff and Scalise responded to Pegler’s charges by emphasizing how long ago their previous criminal convictions had occurred; they also claimed Pegler’s charges stemmed solely from a desire to undercut organized labor.[37] But in the months that followed Pegler’s unmasking of Bioff and Scalise, both men were jailed and faced with serious criminal charges. Their conviction on those charges was widely credited to Pegler’s initial discoveries; the legal outcomes were also interpreted as vindicating his broader charge that organized labor badly needed government-imposed reform.

Scalise’s fortunes quickly declined in the months following Pegler’s revelation. The columnist kept up a steady drumbeat against Scalise, highlighting his luxurious life-style and the questionable background of his subordinates in the union. When the New York County district attorney’s office arrested Scalise in April 1940, the embattled union official reportedly claimed that he had been “Peglerized.” Indicted for extortion and embezzling union funds, by November 1940 Scalise had been tried, convicted, and sentenced to ten to twenty years in jail. Testimony at the trial by one of his co-conspirators revealed that he had been chosen to lead the BSEIU at the behest of organized crime figures in Chicago and New York, who promoted him on the understanding that he would funnel a portion of his annual salary to them. His sentencing report indicated that he had been a longtime associate of Anthony Carfano (or Little Augie Pisano), a leader in the Genovese crime family.[38]

Bioff’s subsequent history was, if anything, more dramatic. In March 1940 he was returned to Illinois to serve out his previous sentence for pandering. Meanwhile a Hollywood studio executive, seeking to avoid punishment for tax evasion, agreed to testify that Bioff and the president of IATSE, George Browne, had extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the major studios. In November 1941 both Bioff and Browne were convicted and sentenced to jail, Bioff for ten years and Browne for eight. By 1943 they in turn had decided to cooperate, and at yet another federal trial they testified that Chicago gangsters had arranged to make Browne president of IATSE. The money Bioff had collected from the Hollywood studios had gone mainly to Chicago organized crime figures. That trial led to the convictions of six top Chicago Mafia leaders, the heirs to the Capone gang.[39]

The convictions did not stem directly from Pegler’s initial revelations, but he nonetheless received much credit for the outcomes. Following Scalise’s arrest in April 1940, the Washington Post editorial page highlighted the union leader’s complaint that he had been “Peglerized.” “That remark,” the editorial asserted, “was an unwitting tribute to the success of Westbrook Pegler’s efforts to focus public attention upon certain A.F. of L. labor leaders with criminal records.” Other commentators followed with similar praise. The Chicago Daily Times observed that the paper had often disagreed with Pegler. “At this time, however, we wish to pay tribute where it is due…. To date Mr. Pegler has dangling from his belt the scalps of Willie Bioff and George Scalise, who had succeeded in muscling in on the labor movement.” After Scalise’s conviction, the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, an Ohio paper, acknowledged, “We have sometimes wondered how Mr. Pegler got hold of so many facts on the activities of so called labor leaders but the record now shows that Mr. Pegler had the ‘inside dope.'” In 1941 Pegler became the first columnist ever to receive a Pulitzer Prize for reporting; the prize committee cited his “articles during the year 1940 on scandals in the ranks of organized labor.” In its story on the prize, the New York Times emphasized the effects of his stories by reporting that Pegler won, “in recognition of his articles on scandals in the ranks of organized labor that led to the exposure and conviction of George Scalise.”[40]

Not only was Pegler’s expertise now accepted, but so too was his basic argument, that the misdeeds of the two labor leaders indicated a much more serious problem that required changes to the nation’s labor laws. After Scalise’s arrest the Washington Post asserted, “The distinguishing feature of the charges in the present instance is that they bring into question the effectiveness of the A.F. of L. leadership in dealing with the problem [of labor racketeering].” And like Pegler, the newspaper viewed labor racketeering as “a public issue of tremendous importance.” The New York Herald-Tribune, apparently impressed by Pegler’s argument that Green had been complicit in the activities of Scalise and Bioff, told its readers, “So it is hardly stretching the truth to say that on trial with Scalise will be the Federation [AFL].” An editorial cartoon from that date, entitled “Before the Bar,” shows Scalise facing a judge who holds “extortion charges” and behind the labor leader looms a ghostly figure labeled “A. F. of L.” (See figure 5.) In the wake of the verdicts in the Hollywood extortion case, the New York Times called for legislative action. “It is the business of Congress not to permit a state of law under which such racketeers can flourish. We are brought back, once more, in short, to the need for a reconsideration of our Federal and local labor laws.” The Times’s proposed changes closely followed Pegler’s suggestions for amending the Wagner Act. [41]

Figure 5. This cartoon appeared in the Washington Post on April 23, 1940, the day after the labor leader George Scalise was arrested on extortion charges. The looming figure in the background labeled “A. F. of L.” is William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor. The cartoon implies that Green is also on trial for complicity in Scalise’s corruption, echoing a claim made by Westbrook Pegler. Courtesy Washington Post, ©1940. Reprinted with permission.

Opposition to the New Deal

Like his employer and friend, Howard, Pegler pursued political goals that went well beyond revising the Wagner Act. By 1940 Pegler had become a vocal critic of the New Deal, and his opposition to unions formed part of a larger critique of the changes wrought by the Roosevelt administration over the previous seven years. He warned Americans that the expansion of the executive branch of the federal government threatened to create a fascist state in America. The Wagner Act and the administration’s general policy toward organized labor, he argued, were parts of a larger conspiracy that would result in a loss of freedom for all Americans.

Originally Pegler had supported the New Deal, and his opposition emerged slowly only during Roosevelt’s second term. As he later recalled, Pegler had voted for FDR in 1932 and again in 1936. During the first term, he had expressed some skepticism, but generally his columns bit hardest at Roosevelt’s critics. A trip to Europe in late 1935 and early 1936, however, affected Pegler deeply and left him alarmed about the danger of fascism emerging in America. Still, as the 1936 election approached, he argued that it was Roosevelt’s opponents, particularly Father Charles Coughlin and Dr. Francis Townsend, who presented the surest route to fascism.

Roosevelt’s astounding reelection victory removed them as viable opponents and offered the New Deal an apparent mandate for further change that Pegler found alarming. In the months that followed the election, Pegler’s opposition to Roosevelt grew ever stronger, and by the fall of 1940, Pegler’s columns featured a steady stream of arguments against the New Deal generally and Roosevelt quite personally.

The gist of Pegler’s conservative argument was the contention that New Dealers had taken advantage of the crisis caused by the Great Depression to engineer a dramatic expansion of the power of the executive branch of the federal government. The seemingly haphazard nature of the New Deal’s reforms, Pegler asserted, was a tactical misdirection that allowed the Roosevelt administration to avoid the opposition that a true understanding of its program would create. In the short run the New Deal used federal relief funds to build a kind of national political machine, where the allocation of strategic favors guaranteed political allegiance. And like the corrupt political machines of Frank Hague in Jersey City and the team of Edward Kelly and Patrick A. Nash in Chicago (both machines, Pegler noted, were loyal allies of the Roosevelt administration), the New Deal used selective enforcement of the law to win supporters and punish opponents. In the long run those developments would lead, Pegler warned, to a fascist dictatorship very much along the lines of what existed in Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany.[43]

In mid-September 1940 Pegler wrote in his column, “As I look at it, this Presidential election is one of those crossroads of destiny that the cartoonists draw, with George Spelvin, the average American, depicted as a puzzled little guy with question marks shooting out of his hat. Only this time I think we really are at the crossroads.” If the Democrats won in November, Pegler warned, they would finish the task of constructing a fascist state that they had begun after the 1936 election. “Remember how arrogantly the humble, hand-washing bleeding hearts of the New Deal spoke of their ‘mandate’ after 1936, interpreting the election returns as popular permission to load the Supreme Court with political ringers and repudiate the rights of minorities and property, I apprehend that they will try to finish the job if they are given four years more.”[44]

For Pegler, the Wagner Act formed a key part of this New Deal fascist conspiracy. Viewed in combination with the increasing restrictions that the New Deal placed on business, the law exemplified the intolerance of totalitarian states toward free enterprise. Attacking the New Deal in August 1939, he asserted, “We haven’t gone all the way to fascism in our hostility to business, but the New Dealers aren’t through yet.” More important, Pegler charged that the Wagner Act allowed the Democrats forcibly to enroll America’s working class into state-sponsored bodies that operated as auxiliaries of the New Deal. “This is a law,” he warned in mid-October 1940, “which drives millions into unions against their will, under the rule of unioneers whose character the government disclaims any right or responsibility to investigate.” In return for the government’s forcing workers to join their unions, “the labor bosses … naturally string along with the administration which delivered to them so many new members and so much revenue in fees, dues and assessments.” And in turn, these loyal unions handed over a portion of the money to the party in power. “So these labor bosses put through resolutions levying political assessments on the members, including the unwilling ones, and turn the money over to the political treasury of President Roosevelt’s Social-Democratic party.” Once the party was secure in its power, the unions would be taken over by the government, Pegler predicted, and the fascist model would be complete. Union members, he wrote, “then would find themselves in a government labor front almost identical with those of Italy and Germany.” A year later, with the entrance of the United States into the war a looming possibility, Pegler asked rhetorically, “Is this a war to establish several hundred small union dictatorships over the lives and earnings of workingmen and presently to consolidate them into one?”[45]

Pegler, of course, had not originated opposition to the New Deal, nor was his the first prominent voice to call for reform of the Wagner Act. But he brought to these conservative efforts the distinctive contribution of an investigative journalist whose exposé of union corruption introduced a powerful new theme. Serious opposition to the Wagner Act dated from the spring of 1937, when the Supreme Court had declared the law constitutional. By 1938 both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers had begun calling for reform of the act. They and other critics in this period, however, focused their efforts on a congressional investigation of the National Labor Relations Board, which they hoped would prove both the board’s pro-union bias and the need for amendments to the act. The resulting investigation in late 1939 and early 1940, led by Rep. Howard W. Smith, generated publicity and pressured Roosevelt to reorganize the NLRB.[46]

But efforts to pass legislation in response to the investigation failed, and by early 1942, Smith and others had turned away from the NLRB and had begun to draw on the themes of corruption and misconduct that Pegler had promoted in his exposés. That April Smith released to the press a letter he had written to William Green denouncing the labor leader for the abuses and corruption that existed in the AFL. Smith warned Green that “public opinion will no longer tolerate boycotts, jurisdictional strikes and unconscionable initiation fees which, as you well know, are prevailing practices protected, defended and encouraged under present A.F. of L. policies.” And like Pegler, Smith emphasized corruption, “That racketeers and gangsters dominate and fatten on many of your locals is a fact well known to you and to the public at large.”[47]

Similarly, Pegler had ties to another prominent union opponent in this period, Rep. Martin Dies, of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). Formed in 1938, HUAC quickly focused on the alleged threat of Communist infiltration into the CIO, and held hearings to publicize the danger. Pegler wrote columns in support of Dies’s efforts and in the early 1940s devoted increasing space to the issue of Communist influence in the CIO. And in turn Dies drew on Pegler’s example. In early December 1941, in a speech before Congress, HUAC’s chairman dramatically revealed that his investigators had discovered that the CIO was being infiltrated not just by Communists, but by criminals. Submitting a list of CIO leaders with criminal records, Dies claimed they represented only the tip of the iceberg, thus making an argument that paralleled Pegler’s condemnation of the AFL. Dies asserted, “It is un-American to force workingmen into the shackles of labor bosses who strive to build up personal power for themselves through the use of the communist and criminal elements that gravitate toward them.” Like Pegler, Dies depicted the union members as unwilling victims. “I am profoundly convinced that the overwhelming majority of labor would, if it were articulate, join me in this solemn protest against the criminal and the racketeer in unions.”[48]

Pegler’s Impact

This history highlights the importance of corruption scandals in efforts to weaken organized labor’s gains during the New Deal. It also reminds us of the central role that opposition to organized labor played in forming a new generation of conservatism that emerged in response to the New Deal in the late 1930s.

Important studies have focused on long-term efforts by anti-union groups to weaken the legal protections offered by the Wagner Act. They have explained the success of those efforts in different ways. Some scholars have traced the patterns of government enforcement of the law. Studies of the National Labor Relations Board argued either that the board sought to co-opt organized labor or that it steadily came to prefer business over labor. Other works emphasized the debilitating effects of the conservative judicial interpretation of the law. And still others followed the legislative setbacks that occurred after World War II with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act (1947) and the Landrum-Griffin Act (1959), both of which limited or curtailed legal rights granted by the Wagner Act. In general this scholarship assumes that the political fortunes of organized labor steadily declined from a peak in the early years of the New Deal, a peak marked by the passage of the Wagner Act.[49]

In all this work, however, the role of corruption scandals and of the man who publicized them has been largely overlooked. If scholars have failed to explore how corruption scandals undercut the political position of organized labor, the connection was clear to many contemporary observers. During a 1941 congressional debate over revisions to the Wagner Act, Pegler’s columns were cited repeatedly on the floor of the House of Representatives. Rep. John Flannagan of Virginia referred to the supporters of the amendments as “Peglerites.” He pointed out how the recent corruption scandal had made the legislative proposals possible. “I realize that public opinion, aroused by the acts of a few misguided labor leaders and the revelation that other unscrupulous labor leaders have prostituted their leadership into racketeering, is demanding anti-labor legislation.” But he also charged that labor’s opponents had fostered the sense of alarm to suit their political needs. “These Peglerites, with Jeremiah complexes, daily giving birth to spasms of fear, I am constrained to believe, have done as much, if not more, to disrupt public-industrial-labor relations, than all the irresponsible labor leaders and racketeers combined.”[50]

The congressmen he spoke to were responding to a dramatic shift in public opinion aroused by the corruption scandals and controversial strikes in the defense industries, all of which had created a political reaction that could not be denied, even by labor’s legislative allies. “Gentlemen, a rising tide of public opinion is demanding that Congress act to curb the arbitrary use of unlimited power granted labor unions and various racketeers masquerading under the protection of labor unions,” warned Rep. Francis Walter of Pennsylvania. Walter may have used that claim to justify a vote he would have cast regardless, but his colleague Jerry Voorhis of California acknowledged the situation with evident chagrin. Describing himself as pro-union, Voorhis explained that “given all the antilabor feeling that unquestionably exists” some legislation had to be passed. His only hope was to make the amendments that went into law as constructive as possible.[51]

Polls showed the declining support for organized labor in a variety of ways. Most directly, when asked, “Are you in favor of labor unions?” in May 1940, 74 percent of Americans responded yes, and 26 percent said no. A year later, in August 1941, only 67 percent declared themselves in favor of unions and 33 percent were now opposed. The drop was steeper than the decline of support that had followed the controversial sit-down strikes of early 1937, when support had fallen by 6 points. That earlier drop had been shortlived; unions had recovered most of their lost support by 1939. But the decline in public favor experienced in 1940–1941 proved a long-term phenomenon. Not until the early 1950s did unions once again enjoy the level of favorable public opinion that they had in 1939. And once again, a union corruption scandal, this time involving Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters union, would coincide with a dramatic drop in public support in the late 1950s. If fewer Americans supported organized labor in the early 1940s, a growing number of them backed more government regulation of unions. The Gallup polling organization reported in July 1940, “On the question of regulating labor unions, the general attitude expressed in comments by voters is that ‘unions are too powerful and have gone too far’ that many unions have become ‘rackets’ and that regulation is needed to protect union members from unscrupulous leaders in their own ranks.”[52]

Figure 6. The Chicago Tribune featured this cartoon by Joseph Parrish on April 23, 1940, the day after the labor leader George Scalise was arrested on extortion charges. Defending himself from Westbrook Pegler’s attacks, Scalise claimed he was singled out because of his devotion to labor’s cause. In contrast, this cartoon depicts a labor racketeer using “The Cause of Labor” to mask violent, criminal activities motivated by greed. It suggests that Scalise represents a pattern of criminality and hypocrisy in the labor movement, as Pegler had contended. Courtesy Chicago Tribune.

Although a majority of Americans still expressed support for unions in general, by 1941 they also viewed unions as dangerous and corrupt. Asked about organized groups that presented a threat to the American form of government, polls showed that people ranked labor unions third, after the Nazis and Communists. In spring 1941, 75 percent of Americans believed that “there is too much power in the hands of the leaders of labor unions.” By way of comparison, only 59 percent said yes to the question “Do you think there is too much power in the hands of a few rich men and large corporations in the United States?” Even fewer worried about the growing power of the government. Many Americans were concerned about the radicalism of union leaders; 61 percent thought that “many labor union leaders are communists.” But more Americans worried about the corruption of union leaders. In October 1941, 73 percent believed that “many labor union leaders are racketeers.” Seven months earlier they were asked a similar question: “Westbrook Pegler, the newspaper writer, says that many union leaders are racketeers. Do you agree or disagree?” Seventy-two percent agreed. The polls showed that this conclusion was shared by a majority of Americans across all major demographic groups, regardless of economic class and age. Even a majority of union members agreed with Pegler’s conclusions. Some 58 percent of AFL members thought that many union leaders were racketeers, and so too did 56 percent of CIO members. The suspicions grew over the course of 1941, as the Bioff and Scalise scandals mushroomed. Pollsters noted in fall 1941 that “it looks very much as though a number of A.F. of L. members who were in doubt in March have since made up their minds that they agree with Pegler.”[53]

It was in this political climate that in early December 1941, after several days of debate, the House of Representatives voted against labor and for amendments to the Wagner Act that included new restrictions on unions. Referring to the congressional debate, Daniel Tobin, president of the Teamsters union, observed the central role that corruption scandals had played. “It is the bad effects from the crooks and communists in a few unions which injure all of organized labor. This vote should be a warning to clean house.” William J. Smith, a liberal supporter of unions, writing in the fall of 1944, noted that Pegler’s relentless focus on labor corruption had had a telling effect on his readers and through them on the larger political environment. “Our complaint against the tirade approach [of Pegler] is based on the reaction of the Pegler fans whom we have met. Nine out of ten of them are not merely anti-racketeer, they are subconsciously opposed to the legitimate aims of trade unionism.” Such scandal stories, Smith explained, laid the way for new legislative restrictions on organized labor. “These ‘constant’ readers are mentally disposed for any kind of drastic anti-union legislation that comes along.”[54]

For Republicans the issues Pegler raised offered a potent line of attack against the New Deal, a way to depict the Roosevelt administration as hostile to the true interests of working Americans. In a November 1940 speech the Republican representative Clare Hoffman said, “I am for the man who works, not for the man who collects from the workingmen, not for labor racketeers. I am against men, such as Scalise and Bioff, that Westbrook Pegler has been writing about.” Echoing Pegler’s arguments, Hoffman continued, “The administration claims that it is the friend of the laboring man. I charge that it permits the laboring man to be exploited by and for the benefit of political labor organizers and racketeers.”[55]

In the 1944 presidential contest, Republicans decided to capitalize on the issue of union corruption. The party’s nominee, Thomas E. Dewey, was an aficionado of opinion polls, and his staff noted the changing public attitudes toward labor. Polling research indicated that Roosevelt was losing support among American workers, including union members. “While Roosevelt still commands a 2 to 1 majority in union ranks,” one report noted, “the trend of his popularity among union men is down.” A memo by a key member of Dewey’s campaign staff argued that the candidate should aggressively pursue working-class votes by emphasizing union scandals and abuses. “I know that candidates have considered it practically political suicide to attack labor on any score,” asserted Ray Rubicam, the vice chair of the Advisory Committee on Publicity and Public Relations. “But by now it is plain that the country is sick of labor dictatorship, sick of labor’s frustration of democratic processes.” The situation had been different, he acknowledged “when the chief victim was industry.” But now, “when the worker himself begins to feel victimized,” the Republicans should respond. “The situation is crying for attack,” he urged. This opinion became the consensus. Dewey’s chief speech writer, Stanley High, explained that he intended to emphasize the issue by making sure that every speech Dewey made stressed this point: “Thanks to the New Deal—and its alien supporters—the future of organized labor in the U.S. is a desperate race between European-minded labor leaders and corrupt labor racketeers, on the one hand, and the great mass of intelligent American workmen who want an American chance, under American auspices to get ahead in an American way.”[56]

Although the Republicans lost the presidential contest in 1944, the party adopted the issue of union abuses, including labor corruption, as a mainstay in its appeals to the electorate. The historian R. Alton Lee observed that “Republicans campaigned for office in 1946 principally on the issue of curbing union power.” They scored major victories that year, regaining control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1932. The growing strength of conservatives in Congress demonstrated the effectiveness of the issue, and in turn the Republican party made new restrictions on organized labor a key part of its agenda, culminating in 1947 with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act. Lee, in a history of the law’s passage, observed that it represented the first time Republicans had managed to “drastically amend … an established New Deal policy.”[57]

In 1947, when the Taft-Hartley Act passed, the Hearst newspaper chain took out advertisements proclaiming that June 23, when the bill became law, “Was WESTBROOK PEGLER’S Day.” The ad explained, “The one writer in the United States most responsible for arousing the people and the Congress into last Monday’s action, at times waging the battle almost single-handed, was Westbrook Pegler.”[58] Although the claim need not be taken at face value, the newspaper chain could make it because Pegler’s role was acknowledged at the time; current scholarship needs to make a similar acknowledgment of the part that Pegler—and the corruption scandals that he publicized—played in organized labor’s political decline.

Pegler’s place in political history should also be reconsidered. Although his criticism of the New Deal did not differ significantly from that offered by better-known conservative political figures such as Robert A. Taft, Pegler’s widely read column ensured that his version of this critique reached the general public. More important, Pegler’s emphasis on the abuses of organized labor needs to be considered in the light of recent studies of the conservative response to the New Deal. In “The Problem of American Conservatism,” Alan Brinkley urged American historians to address “the problem of finding a suitable place for the Right—for its intellectual traditions and its social and political movements—within our historiographical concerns.” Recent scholarship has addressed that challenge, but it has focused primarily on the 1960s and 1970s, and when looking at earlier decades, it has tended to focus on white racism. It overlooks the fact that the fiercest political battles of the 1940s, and even the 1950s, revolved around labor. For Pegler and his readers, racial issues were much less immediate than the growing power of organized labor. Indeed, Pegler in this period could be described as a liberal on racial matters, with some of his most biting columns focusing on the hypocrisy and injustice of America’s treatment of African Americans. In July 1942 the historian Rayford W. Logan wrote Pegler from Howard University to commend one of his columns on the hypocrisy and shame of racism. “It is at once the most accurate and powerful portrayal of the tragedy of the American Negro and his yearnings for a better life after this war that I have ever read,” Logan wrote. Pegler’s brand of conservatism centered on economic concerns, not racial ones.[59]


Any media figure plays a dynamic role, at once reflecting and shaping popular attitudes, and so Pegler’s economic conservatism suggests concerns then important to the average American. For many, the growth of organized labor figured prominently in their daily lives, both as an immediate source of irritation and as a symbol of their inability to control their economic destiny.

But Pegler also shaped attitudes by drawing on what the historian Michael Kazin has called the “populist persuasion” to frame those economic concerns and to offer a convenient set of villains. Kazin defined this populist persuasion as “a persistent yet mutable style of political rhetoric.” He argued that historically it has offered both sides of the political spectrum a way to tap into a traditional American tendency to view political divisions as conflicts between a powerful elite and a powerless, but virtuous, majority of producers. As Brinkley has noted, this tendency to fear concentrations of power, especially hidden concentrations of power, has roots that stretch back to republicanism.[60] The Populists of the late 1800s had turned that suspicion toward corporate and banking interests, but Pegler demonstrated that the language of populism could just as easily point the other way. He depicted a world where a conspiracy of criminals, corrupt union officials, Communists, and their political allies in the New Deal threatened the economic freedom of working Americans.

In addition, Pegler brought to the anti-union movement a uniquely journalistic contribution. Employers had formed anti-union groups as far back as the turn of the twentieth century, and those groups had criticized union restrictions and violence on the picket line for decades. The obvious self-interest involved in such arguments blunted their appeal to the general public, but as a professional journalist Pegler could claim a disinterested status that enhanced his persuasiveness. Moreover, Pegler brought this critique to a wider audience through the mechanism of the exposé. As a journalistic device, the exposé uncovered previously hidden conduct that violated the public image of a person or an institution. Exposés created scandals, and scandals in turn generated public interest while also undercutting the moral authority of the person or institution involved in the misconduct.[61] The Bioff and Scalise scandals appeared to reveal that unions were not the protectors of workingmen, but rather perpetrators of nefarious schemes to exploit them. The exposé thus offered an effective way to de-legitimate the power of organized labor. Pegler had shown how the weapon of Progressive Era muckrakers could serve an emerging conservative critique of government’s growing role and warned of the dangers that unions posed to individual rights. In this way he made an important contribution to the conservative response to the New Deal.


David Witwer is an associate professor of history at Lycoming College.
For helpful comments on this article and its earlier incarnations as a conference paper, thanks to John Allswang, Melvyn Dubofsky, Glen Jeansonne, Robert Johnston, William Leuchtenburg, Nelson Lichtenstein, Joseph McCartin, Joanne Meyerowitz, David Nasaw, David Nord, James Patterson, Richard Pious, William Puette, Catherine Rios, Steven Stowe, Robert Zieger, the participants in the Supreme Court Historical Society’s 2001 Summer Seminar, and the anonymous readers at the Journal of American History. Brian Balogh provided helpful early suggestions, and Richard Morris supplied encouragement throughout this process. Financial support to help fund the research was generously provided by the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association, Lycoming College, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Supreme Court Historical Society, and the University of Michigan. In addition, the author would like to thank the editorial staff at the Journal of American History, especially Susan Armeny, Lori Creed, and Bonnie Laughlin Schultz.
Readers may contact Witwer at <[email protected]>.</[email protected]>

1 Ed., “Letters,” Time, Dec. 22, 1941, p. 2; Westbrook Pegler, “Things I Really Like,” Cosmopolitan, 132 (Feb. 1950), 52; Edwin Emery and Michael Emery, The Press and America: An Interpretive History of the Mass Media (Englewood Cliffs, 1984), 438; Oliver Pilat, Pegler, Angry Man of the Press (Boston, 1963), 278; Diane McWhorter, “Dangerous Minds: William F. Buckley Soft-Pedals the Legacy of Journalist Westbrook Pegler in The New Yorker,” Slate, March 4, 2004 (April 1, 2004); Oliver Pilat, “Westbrook Pegler: Over the Edge,” ADL Bulletin, 21 (Jan. 1964), 4–5; “Pegler Again Man without a Publisher,” Kansas City Star, April 9, 1964, folder: Communism—Opponents of, John Birch Society, 1960–1966, box 21, (James) Westbrook Pegler Papers (Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, Iowa).

2 New York Times, May 6, 1941, p. 1; Jack Alexander, “He’s Against,” Saturday Evening Post, Sept. 14, 1940, p. 11; Pilat, Pegler, 1–2, 177; Charles Fisher, The Columnists (New York, 1944), 167.

3 George P. West, “The Westbrook Pegler Mind,” New Republic, Oct. 5, 1942, pp. 407–8.

4 David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 (New York, 1999), 341.

5 Christopher L. Tomlins, “AFL Unions in the 1930s: Their Performance in Historical Perspective,” Journal of American History, 65 (March 1979), 1023, 1035; Milton Derber, “Growth and Expansion,” in Labor and the New Deal, ed. Milton Derber and Edwin Young (Madison, 1957), 17; Melvyn Dubofsky, The State and Labor in Modern America (Chapel Hill, 1994), 133–35, 139; John M. Allswang, The New Deal and American Politics (New York, 1978), 19, 39– 41; J. David Greenstone, Labor in American Politics (New York, 1969), 40–41.

6 Graham J. White, FDR and the Press (Chicago, 1979), 1, 689–90; Betty Winfield, FDR and the News Media (Urbana, 1990), 143– 45; Robert Bendiner and James Wechsler, “From Scripps to Howard,” Nation, May 13, 1939, pp. 554–55; A. J. Liebling, “Publisher IV: Once Again She Lorst ‘Er Nime,” New Yorker, Aug. 23, 1941, pp. 24–26; George Seldes, Lords of the Press (New York, 1938), 3–19, 206, 227; Frank Freidel, Franklin D. Roosevelt: Rendezvous with Destiny (Boston, 1990), 276; Kennedy, Freedom from Fear, 404.

7 Emery and Emery, Press and America, 430–31; David Nasaw, The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst (New York, 2000), 492–94, 513–16, 522–24; White, FDR and the Press, 94; James T. Patterson, Congressional Conservatism and the New Deal: The Growth of the Conservative Coalition in Congress, 1933–1939 (Lexington, Ky., 1967), 191.

8 Emery and Emery, Press and America, 342–43, 435–38; Fisher, Columnists, 4–9; A. J. Liebling, “Publisher III: An Impromptu Pulitzer,” New Yorker, Aug. 16, 1941, pp. 23–24. For the statement of Helen Lynd and Robert Lynd, see Leo Calvin Rosten, The Washington Correspondents (New York, 1937), 140.

9 Fisher, Columnists, 7, 15.

10 Harold Ickes, America’s House of Lords: An Inquiry into the Freedom of the Press (New York, 1939), 96; Fisher, Columnists, 151–52, 154, 167, 195, esp. 151; Raymond Clapper, Watching the World (New York, 1944), 56; Alexander, “He’s Against,” 10.

11 On the survey by Fortune, see Rosten, Washington Correspondents, 144. Ickes, America’s House of Lords, 102; White, FDR and the Press, 27.

12 Robert Bendiner and James Wechsler, “From Scripps to Howard: Part II, Columns Right!,” Nation, May 20, 1939, pp. 580–81; “Attention Roy Howard,” ibid., May 14, 1938, pp. 548–49; Roy Howard to John Sorrells, May 23, 1938, City File: New York City, box 142, Executive Correspondence, Roy W. Howard Papers (Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.); Howard to G. B. Parker, Sept. 16, 1940, City File: Washington, D.C., box 169, ibid.

13 Howard to Parker, Jan. 17, 1941, City File: Washington, D.C., box 180, Executive Correspondence, Howard Papers. Examples of Roy Howard’s dealings with columnists include Howard to Raymond Clapper, June 8, 1937, box 8, Raymond Clapper Papers (Library of Congress); and Howard to Parker, March 13, 1938, City File: Washington, D.C., box 145, Executive Correspondence, Howard Papers.

14 William H. Hawkins to Howard, July 29, 1936, box 4, Walker Stone Papers (Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison); Howard to Sorrells, May 23, 1938, City File: New York, box 142, Executive Correspondence, Howard Papers; Howard to Westbrook Pegler, Jan. 19, 1934, City File: New York, box 94, ibid.; Howard to Westbrook Pegler, July 7, Aug. 26, 1938, City File: New York, box 142, ibid.; Julie Pegler to Howard, April 14, 1942, City File: New York, box 186, ibid.; Julie Pegler to Howard, May 10, 1943, City File: New York, box 195, ibid.; Julie Pegler to Peg, Jane, and Roy Howard, Jan. 18, 1936, City File: New York, box 117, ibid.; Pilat, Pegler, 105–9, 138–39; Forest Davis, “Press Lord,” Saturday Evening Post, March 12, 1938, pp. 6, 30; Liebling, “Publisher III,” 24.

15 Howard to Hugh Johnson, Feb. 9, 1937, City File: Washington, D.C., box 133, Executive Correspondence, Howard Papers; Howard to Parker, June 10, 1938, City File: Washington, D.C., box 145, ibid.

16 Howard to Parker, April 2, 1940, City File: Washington, D.C., box 169, ibid.

17 Sorrells to Walker Stone, Aug. 25, 1939, City File: New York City, box 155, ibid.

18 Arthur James Pegler, “Autobiography,” typescript, chapter 7, pp. 1–4, folder: Arthur James Pegler, Autobiography, Chapters 1–7, box 51, Pegler Papers; Westbrook Pegler, “Autobiography” typescript, page numbers irregular and incomplete, folder: Books—Autobiography (1), box 114, ibid.; M. L. Stein, Under Fire: The Story of American War Correspondents (New York, 1968), 61.

19 Arthur James Pegler, “Autobiography,” chapter 7, pp. 1–4; Westbrook Pegler, “Autobiography”; Stein, Under Fire, 61. For examples of his sports writing, see Westbrook Pegler, “Tis Well for Promoters, Says Peg, the Fans Aren’t Skeptics,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 5, 1928, clipping, box 115, Pegler Papers; and “Proselyting, What of It?,” n.d., clipping, ibid. “Not So Tough Guy,” Sir, March 29, 1944, p. 31, clipping in folder: Pegler, Articles and Books About, 1944–45, box 51, ibid.; Ferdinand Lundberg, “The Values of Westbrook Pegler,” New Leader, Jan. 31, 1942, p. 4.

20 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Aug. 1, 1942, box 121, Pegler Papers; Membership Card, American Newspaper Guild, issued July 1, 1934, folder: Unions, American Newspaper Guild, 1933–1937, box 80, ibid.; Pilat, Pegler, 136–41; Robert U. Brown, “Pegler Not Satisfied with Fruits of Ten Years Racket Campaigning,” Editor & Publisher, July 31, 1943, p. 7.

21 “As Pegler Sees It,” Oct. 25, 1945, folder: Unions, American Newspaper Guild, 1933–1937, box 80, Pegler Papers.

22 Nelson Lichtenstein, The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor (New York, 1995), 110; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Jan. 18, March 19, Aug. 9, Oct. 30, 1937, Jan. 20, 1938, box 118, Pegler Papers.

23 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Jan. 18, 1937, box 118, Pegler Papers; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” July 13, 1939, box 119, ibid.

24 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Aug. 8, 1939, April 1, 1938, July 27, 1939, ibid.

25 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” June 18, May 29, June 9, Aug. 4, Nov. 24, 1937, box 118, ibid.; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” March 22, 1938, July 26, July 27, Sept. 22, Oct. 12, 1939, box 119, ibid.; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Jan. 20, 1940, box 120, ibid.

26 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Aug. 15, 1939, box 119, ibid.

27 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Nov. 22, 1939, ibid.; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Jan. 19, 1940, box 120, ibid.

28 Selig Perlman and Philip Taft, History of Labor in the United States, vol. IV: Labor Movements (New York, 1935), 129–38; Sidney Fine, “Without Blare of Trumpets”: Walter Drew, the National Erectors’ Association, and the Open Shop Movement, 1903–57 (Ann Arbor, 1995), 1–11, 34–38, 50–54, 201–21; David Witwer, Corruption and Reform in the Teamsters Union (Chicago, 2003), 20–37; Andrew Wender Cohen, The Racketeer’s Progress: Chicago and the Struggle for the Modern American Economy, 1900–1940 (New York, 2004), 140; Finley Peter Dunne, “Mr. Dooley on the Open Shop,” 1920, in Unions, Management, and the Public, ed. E. Wight Bakke and Clark Kerr (New York, 1948), 120–21.

29 Richard L. McCormick, “The Discovery That Business Corrupts Politics: A Reappraisal of the Origins of Progressivism,” American Historical Review, 86 (April 1981), 264–65, esp. 265.

30 Alexander, “He’s Against,” 132 ; John Cameron Swayze, “Candid ‘Shots’ with a Typewriter,” Kansas City Journal Post, Feb. 22, 1938, clipping, folder: Pegler, Articles and Books About, 1915–1941, box 51, Pegler Papers; “Referred to the People,” Printer’s Ink, Dec. 5, 1941, p. 88.

31 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” March 2, 1938, box 119, Pegler Papers.

32 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Nov. 24, Nov. 28, Nov. 22, Dec. 18, Dec. 20, Dec. 30, 1939, box 119, ibid.; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Jan. 13, 1940, box 120, ibid.

33 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Jan. 13, Jan. 6, 1940, box 120, ibid.

34 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Jan. 19, 1940, ibid.

35 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Feb. 1, June 7, 1940, ibid.

36 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” July 11, 1940, ibid. Cf. Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” July 11, 1940, ibid.; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” April 1, 1938, July 13, July 26, Aug. 8, 1939, box 119, ibid.; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Jan. 6, Jan. 12, April 6, April 13, April 25, June 7, July 11, 1940, box 120, ibid.

37 New York Times, Jan. 28, 1940, p. 29; ibid., Feb. 21, 1940, p. 3.

38 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Jan. 26, Jan. 31, March 1, April 2, April 12, April 16, April 18, April 24, 1940, box 120, Pegler Papers; New York Times, April 22, 1940, p. 1; ibid., April 23, 1940, p. 1; ibid., Aug. 27, 1940, p. 1; ibid., Oct. 8, 1940, p. 1.

39 New York Times, Oct. 7, 1943, p. 25; ibid., Oct. 8, 1943, p. 9; ibid., Oct. 9, 1943, p. 15; ibid., Oct. 13, 1943, p. 25; ibid., Oct. 15, 1943, p. 38; ibid., Jan. 1, 1944, p. 1.

40 Washington Post, April 23, 1940, p. 10; Chicago Daily Times, May 13, 1940, clipping, folder: Unions, American Federation of Labor, 1908, 1940, box 79, Pegler Papers; Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, Nov. 8, 1941, p. 12; Frank D. Fackethal to Westbrook Pegler, May 8, 1941, folder: Pegler Awards, Pulitzer Prize, box 53, Pegler Papers; New York Times, May 6, 1941, p. 1.

41 Washington Post, April 23, 1940, p. 10; New York Herald-Tribune, April 22, 1940; folder: Unions, American Federation of Labor, 1908, 1940, box 79, Pegler Papers; New York Times, Dec. 24, 1943, p. 12.

42 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Oct. 7, Oct. 8, 1940, box 120, Pegler Papers; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” April 22, April 24, Sept. 9, Sept. 19, 1936, box 117, ibid.

43 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” June 22, Feb. 26, June 8, Aug. 20, Nov. 11, 1937, box 118, ibid.; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” April 28, n.d., 1938, June 8, June 24, Aug. 8, 1939, box 119, ibid.

44 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Sept. 16, 1940, box 120, ibid.

45 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Aug. 8, 1939, box 119, ibid.; Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Oct. 15, 1940, Aug. 20, 1941, box 120, ibid.

46 James A. Gross, The Reshaping of the National Labor Relations Board: National Labor Policy in Transition, 1937–1947 (Albany, 1981), 5, 24–28, 34–35, 42, 48–52, 85, 100–108, 151–213, 224–40; Gilbert J. Gall, “CIO Leaders and the Democratic Alliance: The Case of the Smith Committee and the NLRB,” Labor Studies Journal, 14 (Summer 1989), 4–5, 11, 14–16.

47 Howard W. Smith to William Green, April 13, 1942, box 3, Howard Worth Smith Papers (Alderman Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville); “Green Assailed for Defending ‘Bad’ in the AFL,” Chicago Daily Tribune, April 15, 1942, p. 10, ibid.

48 Kenneth O’Reilly, Hoover and the Un-Americans: The FBI, HUAC, and the Red Menace (Philadelphia, 1983), 37–38, 48–49; speech enclosed in memo from Robert E. Stripling to Westbrook Pegler, Dec. 3, 1941, folder: Communism, Opponents of, House Un-American Activities Committee 1941, box 21, Pegler Papers.

49 See Dubofsky, State and Labor in Modern America, 197–231; and Ronald W. Schatz, “Into the Twilight Zone—The Law and the American Industrial Relations System since the New Deal,” International Labor and Working-Class History (no. 36, 1989), 51–60. Labor Management Relations (Taft-Hartley) Act, 29 U.S.C. 141 (1947); Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure (Landrum-Griffin) Act, 29 U.S.C. 401 (1959).

50 Congressional Record, 77 Cong., 1 sess., Dec. 2, 1941, p. 9352.

51 Ibid., Dec. 1, 1941, p. 9305; ibid., Dec. 2, 1941, p. 9358.

52 Seymour Martin Lipset and William Schneider, The Confidence Gap: Business, Labor, and Government in the Public Mind (New York, 1983), 203; New York Times, June 13, 1941, p. 12; ibid., July 26, 1940, p. 11.

53 Hadley Cantril and Frederic Swift, “Public Opinion and Labor Problems: Confidential Report,” Nov. 11, 1941, 4, 8–9, 15, President’s Personal Files, PPF 4721, Franklin D. Roosevelt Papers (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.); George H. Gallup, The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion, 1935–1971 (3 vols., New York, 1972), I, 277–78.

54 Joel Seidman, American Labor from Defense to Reconversion (Chicago, 1953), 72–73; New York Times, Dec. 4, 1941, pp. 1, 23; New York World-Telegram, Dec. 4, 1941, folder: Pegler, Articles and Books About, 1915–1941, box 51, Pegler Papers; William J. Smith, “Pegler Pushes on to Greener Pastures,” Crown Heights Comment, Oct. 10, 1944, p. 3, advance copy sent to Pegler by the author, folder: Pegler, Articles and Books About, 1942–43, ibid.

55 Congressional Record, 76 Cong., 3 sess., Nov. 20, 1940, pp. 13703–4.

56 Richard Norton Smith, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times (New York, 1982), 347; Opinion Research Corporation, “Dewey vs. Roosevelt: An Analysis of the Presidential Campaign,” Aug. 21, 1944, p. 6, box 57, Bruce Barton Papers (Wisconsin State Historical Society); Ray Rubicam to Bruce Barton, July 29, 1944, Republican Folder, 1944, ibid.; Memo from Stanley High, July 28, 1944, ibid.

57 R. Alton Lee, Truman and Taft-Hartley: A Question of Mandate (Lexington, Ky., 1966), 47, 52.

58 Reprint from Editor and Publisher, June 28, 1947, Folder: Advertisements & Reader Surveys, box 112, Pegler Papers.

59 James T. Patterson, Mr. Republican: A Biography of Robert A. Taft (Boston, 1972), 150–52, 156–59; Alan Brinkley, “The Problem of American Conservatism,” American Historical Review, 99 (April 1994), 410. For examples of columns on racial issues, see Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,” Aug. 4, Aug. 11, 1938, Jan. 4, 1939, July 16, 1942, box 119, Pegler Papers; Rayford W. Logan to Westbrook Pegler, July 17, 1942, folder: Negroes—General 1907–1955, box 46, ibid.

60 Michael Kazin, The Populist Persuasion: An American History (New York, 1995), 1–5, esp. 5; Alan Brinkley, Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression (New York, 1983), 161.

61 John B. Thompson, Political Scandal: Power and Visibility in the Media Age (Malden, 2000), 11–24, 28–30, 72–80, 86–89; Robert Williams, Political Scandals in the U.S.A. (Edinburgh, 1998), 6, 122–30.