The Radio Priest


In the course ojyour career you were called everything from a demagogue to a Fascist to an anti-Semite. How did these accusations affect you?

It never bothered me. I’ve often tried to analyze that psychologically. It hurt for the time being, for the first ten minutes. It’s different when you’re married, you have to take those things into consideration because of your wife and family. When you’re unmarried it doesn’t bother you. I’m talking psychologically. It’s water on a duck’s back, as it were. And because you’re not seeking money, and it doesn’t affect your pocketbook, that’s the second reason. And thirdly, and it’s the major reason, it’s a gross untruth, and any day I wanted to, I could pull the strings from under them.

One of the high-water marks of the Union Party’s 1936 campaign was a rally that drew forty-two thousand people to Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium on August 16, 1936. Just before you collapsed from heat prostration you stated that you would quit the radio if Lemke didn’t receive at least nine million votes.

I wish I had collapsed sooner. It was a rash promise.

Lemke didn’t receive a million voles.

Why, he didn’t even get 900,000. The whole thing was a horrible mistake. I was glad when it was over.

Did the campaign end your relationship with Roosevelt?

Oh, no. I continued to see him until the war started, not as frequently, of course. But you see, I genuinely liked the man, and I think he enjoyed me. His wife didn’t.

Do you want to talk about Eleanor Roosevelt?

No, that’s not fair. She leaned too far to the left to suit me, that’s all.

Despite your campaign promise, you returned to the airwaves in 1937 but things were never the same again, were they?

Not after the death [January 20, 1937] of Bishop GaIlagher, no. I was very close to Michael Gallagher. I loved that man. He was probably one of the great theologians in the country.

You didn’t enjoy the same type of relationship with his succesArchbishop Edward Mooney?

I’ll tell you the story about that, but there is one thing you have to remember: Bishop Mooney was a real gentleman, a good gentleman. Well, years before—Michael Gallagher told me this—years before, Mooney had been the president of the Cleveland Latin School, and Joe Schrembs was the bishop there. Now in those days Michael was a Sinn Feiner, as most of the Irish bishops were, and he was invited down to Cleveland by the local Sinn Fein society to make a speech. And when he got there, his throat hurt so much he couldn’t talk. So he told Bishop Schrembs about his problem, and Schrembs told him not to worry, he’d get someone to read it for him. So Schrembs called in Father Mooney and asked him to deliver the speech, and Mooney refused. He told Schrembs that he didn’t believe in Sinn Fein. “What,” said Schrembs, “you’re an Irishman, and you don’t believe in freedom for Ireland? Then get out of my diocese.” And he suspended Mooney on the spot. Well, Mooney had powerful friends, and he eventually made his way to the American College in Rome, where he was consecrated a bishop. Well, he became archbishop after Michael Gallagher died, and one day he had me downtown to discuss something with me, ‘twasn’t very pleasant. I said, “Bishop, let’s get this thing straight. You are here to be the hatchetman for Pius XH, and I want you to do the job, because I stand back of him, if he told me to jump off this window. Don’t be afraid. I hold no animosity toward you. You’re doing your job, and I stand back of authority.” There were tears in his eyes. He didn’t have much courage, he didn’t have much fortitude, but he was a gentleman.

Mooney wanted you to submit your radio scripts for review, didn ‘t he?

He did it in a clumsy way. He appointed nine young priests who supervised my script on a Wednesday evening prior to the Sunday broadcast. And the nine of them, I don’t know if any of them knew anything about political economy. I told Mooney, I’m not disclaiming their intelligence, but they haven’t had enough experience. I knew it wasn’t going to last.

In the late 1930 ‘s you became increasingly isolationist in your foreign-policy statements on the radio and m your weekly newspaper, Social Justice.