Posted tagged ‘Fulton Lewis Jr.’

Richard Nixon and the Talk Radio Host Who Made His Political Rise Happen

July 24, 2013

This week marks two key events in the political life of Richard Nixon — whose political career was largely made by talk radio host Fulton Lewis Jr., the Rush Limbaugh of his day.

On July 24, 1959 Vice President Nixon was in his famous “kitchen debate” with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. On July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee proposed articles of impeachment  against President Nixon before he ultimately resigned over the Watergate scandal.

The Right Frequency details how Lewis, a towering conservative media figure in the 1940s and 1950s pushed Nixon, a California senator known mostly for his anti-communism in Congress, into the national spotlight.

Below is an excerpt from The Right Frequency.

Fulton Lewis Jr., like others on the right, had misgivings about Dwight D. Eisenhower’s moderate brand of Republicanism. But he was delighted with Eisenhower’s choice of a running mate, California Senator Richard Nixon, a man with strong anti-communist credentials from his HUAC days.

Lewis had frequently entertained Nixon at his 275-acre Maryland ranch. After Nixon was officially nominated for vice president at the 1952 Republican National Convention in Chicago, he hugged Lewis and said, “Except for you Fulton, it never would have happened.”

That may also be true of Nixon remaining on the ticket. Though Nixon helped himself with the famous “Checkers speech,” Lewis was also a staunch defender of the VP nominee when Eisenhower considered dropping him from the ticket after revelations that businessmen were financing his personal expenses, which would violate Senate ethics rules on gifts and possibly the law. Lewis urged his listeners to contact Eisenhower’s campaign and demand that Nixon remain on the ticket.

His attitude toward Eisenhower: “A man morally fitted for his job, certainly and emotionally in so far that he in—in so far as he intends sincerely to do a good job,” compared to enthusiastically saying, “Dick Nixon is a young, very aggressive, probably the best trained man that has ever stood in possible line for the Presidency. A very sincere individual, a very fine, clean, family man and an ardent anti-communist.”

Click here to order a copy of The Right Frequency.

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Talk Radio Backed McCarthyism Before and After ‘Have You No Sense of Decency’ Speech

June 9, 2013

(On June 9, 1954, Joseph Welch, special counsel for the U.S. Army, lashed out at Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, with the now famous phrase, “Have you no sense of decency.” It marked the beginning of the end of McCarthy’s investigations into communism. McCarthy was championed by many talk radio voices of his era, including Walter Winchell and Fulton Lewis Jr. Below are excerpts from The Right Frequency, an Amazon Best Seller, about McCarthyism and talk radio.)

FDR’s death was a blow to the country, but particularly one for Winchell.

“Winchell loved FDR and took his political bearings from FDR, so that when FDR dies, Winchell, like most of the country, in point of fact, lost his political bearings, and when one factors that in with the other side, that with the Nazi threat gone, Walter Winchell has no adversary,” Gabler said. “And Walter Winchell is a man who lives an adversarial life. Everything in Walter Winchell is predicated on the notion that he is sounding the alarm for Americans.”

So that alarm would be the communist threat.Roy Cohn, Sen. Joe McCarthy’s chief aid, befriended Walter Winchell and brought him into McCarthy’s circle. Like FDR, McCarthy knew how important finessing a giant media personality could be.

In one broadcast Winchell warned Americans, “And now to bea the hand around the clock. International News Service—January 10th is the date for a mass meeting of the communist leaders in Washington, D.C.—behind closed doors, of course. The real purpose, however, will be to protest the trial of the 12 leading commie chiefs in the United States.”

He went on to accuse Lucille Ball of being a communist. Her husband Desi Arnaz responded, “The only thing red about Lucy is her hair, and not even that is real.” After McCarthy became disreputable in the public’s mind, so did many who aligned themselves with him. In the case of Winchell, it was McCarthy and a number of other factors that led to his decline.

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Fulton Lewis Jr. continued on his radio show and had his friend Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy on as a frequent guest.

“When you know an individual to be attempting to do a public service, a patriotic service, and you see him maligned by groups which are not thinking in the public interest, you have a tendency to be a little over-generous with the guy,” Fulton Lewis said of Joe McCarthy.

Look magazine called Lewis one of McCarthy’s “masterminds.” Lewis loaned one of his ghostwriters, Ed Nellor to write speeches for McCarthy. McCarthy’s office provided Nellor with material about alleged communists in government for Lewis’s broadcasts.

The truth is that McCarthy had many friends in the media—Washington reporters hungry for a scoop. But Fulton Lewis was indeed his staunchest advocated on the national scene. And he did not desert McCarthy when he became the most hated senator, censured by his peers—branded as conducting witch hunts.

This led to Lewis dwindling in audience, as the public saw McCarthy and those who defended him as discredited, another truism that has been challenged in recent years.
After McCarthy’s death, Lewis said, “I think Joseph McCarthy did a great deal of good for the country. I think he was one of the most courageous fighters against Communism that I have ever seen on the national picture. I did not agree with everything that he did and told him so on frequent occasions when I disagreed. I do think, however, that he gave his life for the cause of anti-communism in America and for this I think he deserves great credit.”

Click here to order The Right Frequency.

 

Fulton Lewis Jr.: Combating the ‘Ultra-Liberal Eastern Crowd

March 8, 2013

(The following is an excerpt from The Right Frequency. Click here to order a copy.)

Nearly 40 years after his death, Fulton Lewis, Jr. was back in the news again. In 2005, Ken Tomlinson, the chief of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, sought to bring balance to the left-leaning National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting System TV.

Book Cover

The move was met with expected resistance, but the liberal online magazine Salon determined Tomlinson and William Schulz, the CPB ombudsman, were McCarthy-ite throwbacks. To prove this, Salon writer Eric Boehlert looked at a brief association the two men had 40 years ago to discredit whatever point they had to make in 2005, which was sort of, well, a McCarthy-ite move.
Salon reported that Tomlinson was once an intern for Lewis—an anti-New Deal, pro-McCarthy radio commentator, while Schulz was once a writer for Lewis.108 Retired New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis griped, “If both men wrote for Fulton Lewis it means they were dedicated to an extreme-right position that should disqualify them from determining somebody’s objectivity.”
Politicians and commentators from both sides have often found the best weapon in the public arena against a substantive argument is an ad homonym boogey man. For the left, these boogey men are generally representative figures such as “the wealthy,” conjuring up images of a monopoly man in a big hat, “big business,” conjuring up an image of a ruthless cigar-chomping man in an expensive suit and the “big oil” image of a J.R. Ewing type figure sticking it to you at the pump. The straw figures are endless. A few real people make the cut, such as Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. But the Salon piece going after Tomlinson proved that Fulton Lewis was still a boogey man for the left after all these years, which is quite an accomplishment.
Fulton Lewis, Jr. was definitely part of the extreme right—at least extreme for his time when most Republicans had accepted the premise of the New Deal policies. Lewis railed against the New Deal, supported some discredited communist witch hunts in government, and even lobbed oratorical grenades at Eisenhower Republicans. He was nevertheless very popular at his 7 p.m. weekday broadcast on 550 stations with 16 million listeners per week.
He established the same rights for radio correspondents to cover Capitol Hill that newspaper reporters had. Like others of his era, his star waned with TV—a medium for which he was not well suited.
He introduced such phrases to the political lexicon that would be recycled in some way or another for generations to come such as “The ultra liberal eastern crowd,” “the New York Park Avenue Pink Set,” “the Left Wing Fund for the Republic,” and the “CIO-backed Communist left wing crackpots.”
“He would take a position or a stand and people would react to it,” said Lee Edwards, a leading historian of the conservative movement, and distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “He was really as big as, if not bigger than, Rush Limbaugh, in the 1940s.”
With a weekly income of $7,000, he was the highest paid broadcaster, and among the highest paid Americans, in the 1940s.
Years before Phyllis Schlafly penned “A Choice Not an Echo,” and decades before Ronald Reagan was elected president, Lewis almost prophetically argued that if Americans actually had a choice between conservatism and liberalism, they would vote conservative.
The problem, he said, is that moderates had taken over the GOP.
“I said between a clear drawn election between the right, between conservatives—I didn’t use the ‘right’—between conservatives, conservatism and liberalism, and this is the thing that I have been driving for, for years and years and years, and until we get it the American people are not going to be able to have a free expression,” he said in an interview with Mike Wallace in 1958. “If we could get an election between the conservatives and the liberals there is not any question in my mind whatsoever. … There is no question in my mind whatsoever that the balance would be sixty to seventy-five percent on the conservative side.”
Lewis was born in 1903 into a well-to-do family, the son of a prominent Washington attorney. The National Cathedral now sits where his childhood home once stood.116 He dropped out of the University of Virginia—where he led a dancing orchestra—after three years. He later enrolled in George Washington University
School of Law, but his father’s footsteps were not for him. He went to work for The Washington Herald in 1924, a Hearst-owned morning newspaper and became city editor within three years.
He tried radio in the 1920s, and it didn’t work out. So he devoted his life to print journalism and gained a lot of success. He did a major investigative piece on irregularities in the federal payments that airlines got for transporting mail, rooting out huge government overpayments. The Herald found it too hot to publish, so Lewis turned his notes over to a congressional committee, which probed the matter and led to the government cancelling all airmail contracts.
Such a view of government waste likely led him to lean more to the right.
His journalism career continued to rise when the Hearst Corporation made him the Washington correspondent for Hearst Universal News Service from 1928 to 1937. The news service leaned right, but Lewis really gained bona fides in conservative circles after he married Alice Huston, the daughter of former Republican National Committee Chairman Claudius Hart Huston.
The wedding drew 2,000 Washington elites, including First Lady Lou Henry Hoover. But, Lewis wouldn’t always fit in perfect with establishment Washington, as broadcast colleague Wythe Williams would later comment that Lewis was too caustic to be popular with Washington officialdom or other Washington reporters.
These same qualities made for high ratings as a broadcaster.
From 1933 to 1936, he had a syndicated column called The Washington Sideshow. Then, in 1937 after a 10-year absence from radio, he substituted for a vacationing radio announcer with Mutual Broadcasting Company. Though he used slang and clichés, he had an excitable voice, he showed up for work on time, and Mutual WOL station manager William Dolph loved the energy and passion.
Dolph said, “Announcers who can read the news perfectly are a dime a dozen. I’ve asked perhaps a hundred announcers to tell me the news after they read it and not one ever came close. They don’t know what they’re reading. They don’t care. Fulton reads from a script, sure, but it’s a script he himself has written at the last moment. … He gets excited and loses his place, but you know a guy like that just can’t be phony.” After Dolph asked him to do commentaries full time for WOL, Lewis dropped his newspaper column with King Features and took a pay cut to do radio full time.
By the end of 1937, Lewis’s program was being broadcast nationally, and the Mutual Network, the smallest of all the radio networks, touted him as the only national news commentary originating from Washington. But being a commentator did not mean he was no longer a reporter. He still cozied up to sources on Capitol Hill, and sought to get dirt on the Roosevelt administration. Most of his sources were conservatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties, skeptical of the New Deal. Being a real reporter in Washington means having credentials to cover Capitol Hill, something radio correspondents were not allowed to have then, as the print journalists that ran the press galleries looked down on radio reporters. Lewis leaped into action to crusade for radio as being every bit as legitimate a source for news as newspapers.
Newspaper and wire reporters were not considering politicians loved publicity from any medium. Lewis’s crusade paid off when Congress voted in 1939 to establish a radio gallery for covering the House and Senate.
He became the first president of the Radio Correspondence Association.

Bookviews: The Right Frequency ‘Excellent Book, Well Worth Reading’

February 3, 2013

From Bookviews:

If you are among the many millions who depend on talk radio to get news and opinion from a conservative point of view, than you will enjoy Fred V/ Lucas’ new book, The Right Frequency: The Story of Talk Radio Giants Who Shook Up the Political and Media Establishment ($18.95, History Publishing Company, softcover). L. Brent Bozell III president of the Media Research Center, says, “Author Fred Lucas chronicles conservative talk-radio stars over the decades, reminding us how they kept the American idea alive. Lucas travels back to the early days of talk radio history, describing, for example how Fulton Lewis predicted to Mike Wallace in the 1950s that the Republican Party could be a majority party if they would only let the conservatives run it, instead of wishy-washy, me-too moderates.” That was quite prescient given the way the recent reelection of President Obama is widely attributed to a weak candidate and failure to wage a more aggressive campaign. The Republicans have had a succession of presidents from Eisenhower to Nixon to Reagan and the two Bush presidencies. It took until 1994 to gain control of Congress during the Clinton administration, but political power kept slipping away and today’s talk radio stars, led by Rush Limbaugh, will have plenty to rail against for the next four years. As history, this is an excellent book, well worth reading. 

Click here to see full article.

To order a copy of The Right Frequency, click here.

Brent Bozell: The Right Frequency ‘Chronicles Conservative Talk Radio Stars Over The Decades, Reminding us how They Kept the American Idea Alive’

October 6, 2012

L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center, the nation’s leading media watchdog group, called The Right Frequency a rebuttal to the attacks from the media on conservative talk radio.

“Author Fred Lucas chronicles conservative talk-radio stars over the decades, reminding us how they kept the American idea alive,” Bozell writes. “Lucas travels back to the early days of radio history, describing, for example, how Fulton Lewis predicted to Mike Wallace in the 1950s that the Republican Party could be a majority party if they would only let the conservatives run it, instead of the wishy-washy, me-too moderates.”

Bozell continues, “But it’s really fun to remember how liberals have failed to find their anti-Limbaugh. In the 1990s, ABC Radio tried to make a star out of Texas Agricultural Commissioner Jim Hightower, thinking they could sell ultra-liberalism if it sounded folksy enough. He bombed. They tried to sell Mario Cuomo as a radio host, although he was far too pompous for the regular folks. He lectured a libertarian caller: “What if you have a plague? Floods? You’d just let everybody drown?” He bombed. They tried former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder. Bomb.”

Bozell also includes, “A disclaimer: Lucas works during the day as the White House correspondent for CNSNews.com, a division of the Media Research Center, which I lead.”

Click here to read the column by L. Brent Bozell III.

Click here to order a copy of The Right Frequency.