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Caustic newsman Pegler vanished, couldn’t stop stepping on big toes

Who’s who In 1941 Time magazine polled its readers for candidates for its Man of the Year award. Readers responded: 1. President Franklin Roosevelt, 2. Josef Stalin, 3. columnist Westbrook Pegler.

Westbrook who? Although Pegler had dominated the newspaper columnist business for more than a decade, won a Pulitzer Prize, was the talk of journalism, and became the star of both the Scripps-Howard and Hearst chains, he is today largely unknown.  He was converted into non-celebritywestbrook-pegler status because the affronted nabobs of newsdom and academia have ignored him for decades except for a few disparaging remarks whenever his name came up in print.  He had tread upon too many aching progressive toes to be forgiven. Truth be told, Pegler clomped on nearly everyone’s toes. His hard-bitten philosophy divided humanity into two classes, those in authority and the little people. The big shots were his natural prey. Among the hugest of the VIPs was the family of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the nation’s labor unions, rapidly burgeoning under the New Deal administration and many riddled with corruption.  Both Pegler targets were the most revered icons of American liberals whose wounded response was, “How can he do this to us?”

They well may ask, because Westbrook was a registered Democrat and one of Roosevelt’s most enthusiastic early supporters.  Unfortunately for the president, Pegler was one of those absolutely honest people who could not abide flaws in persons or institutions he admired.  Regardless of the person’s contributions to the nation, any hint that he had feet of clay, itchy palms, corruption, or a lack of basic humanity brought down the Pegler wrath.

Antics of the Roosevelt tribe soon disenchanted the columnist. Mother Eleanor seemed to be striving for public acclaim and glory while the kids appeared to be trading on the family name for earthly riches. As for papa Roosevelt, Pegler accused him of overruling his military experts to award $40 million in contracts to industrialist Howard Hughes for two aircraft, the F-11 and the HK-1 (popularly named the Spruce Goose, which flew only once). Continue reading

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