Skip to comments.TODAY IN HISTORY: FAIRNESS DIRTY TRICKS PLOTTED (JFK PLUS 50--- OCTOBER 17, 1963)
Posted on 10/17/2013 5:36:12 AM PDT by Nextrush
Fifty years ago today as President John F. Kennedy was in one side of the "Fish Room" of the White House with Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, his Karl Rove was plotting a dirty tricks operation to be used against conservative radio broadcasters in the 1964 presidential election.
"Kenneth O'Donnell, the trusted friend and appointment secretary of President Kennedy, had never heard of Red Lion. In the autumn of 1963 the President's policies were being bombarded by a coast to coast battery of such right-wing radio commentators as the Reverends Carl McIntire and Billy James Hargis. Both were particuarly damaging to the Kennedy Administration when the nuclear test-ban treaty with the Soviet Union was up for Senate ratificiation. Faced with the strong possibility that Senator Barry Goldwater would be the Republican nominee in 1964, members of the Kennedy Administration were concerned that the hundreds of ultra-right-wing radio stations could be a decisive factor in the election a year hence...."
"The Good Guys, The Bad Guys And The First Amendment"-Fred W.Friendly
"If a broadcaster carries programs advocating the conservative side of current issues he ought to be forced to carry the other side, Senator Gale McGee (D-WYO) said last week.
Expressing concern at the large number of 'right wing' programs on radio stations in his state, Senator McGee urged broadcasters to insure fairness by seeking organizations or individuals who will present the liberal side of controversial issues."
"Broadcasting"-February 3, 1964
America had an intellectual conservative movement focused on the written word fifty years ago with publications like "National Review" and "Human Events", but it also had a more populist and militant conservative movement on the airwaves.
Broadcasters like Dan Smoot, Dean Manion and a host of radio preachers and commentators were able to buy blocks of time on hundreds of radio stations across the country to blast away at liberalism. Smoot and Manion actually had 15 minute weekly television shows airing in some cities. Many of their ideas dovetailed with those of the John Birch Society, which saw conspiratorial action from business and political leaders in the direction of world government.
The broadcasts scared liberals everywhere and they fought back with books and magazine articles accusing the broacasters of racism and anti-Semetism.
Liberal Senator Gale McGee of Wyoming, that's right Wyoming, actually went on a statewide hookup of radio and television stations in April 1963 to denounce "right-wing broadcasts" that were being heard on 15 of the 29 radio stations in the state at that time.
On this day in 1963 Kenneth O'Donnell (JFK's political man) summoned federal housing official Wayne Phillips, an ex-newspaper reporter, to the White House to use the Federal Communications Commission's Fairness Doctrine and fairness rulings against Kennedy's opponents on the radio.
O'Donnell told former CBS News President Fred Friendly, who wrote a book about fairness and free speech in the 1970's (when the Nixon Administration tried to use it on liberal media and successfully used it to take conservative preacher Carl McIntire's radio station off the air) that he had the impression that President Kennedy gave him direction on the use of the Fairness Doctrine based on Kennedy's conversation with Senate Communications Committee Chairman Senator John Pastore (D RI).
Phillips was sent by O'Donnell to meet with the committee's chief counsel, Nick Zapple. Zappple outlined the fairness rules to Phillips and told author Fred Friendly "Phillips and the Democratic National Committee were determined to use the Fairness Doctrine to counter the radical right".
Phillips was soon in the basement of his house with recording machines making copies of "right wing" shows and requesting lists of stations carrying them.
Although President Kennedy died, the political operation continued under President Johnson and in early 1964 Phillips joined the Democratic National Committee staff as "Director of News and Information". He was given 10-thousand dollars to get a monitoring system going to record broadcasts that would be challenged under fairness rules.
As the DNC operation moved into higher gear hundreds of radio stations were approached with demands for free air time to reply to the various conservative broadcasters. Since the radio stations needed paid air time to stay in business, the objective of the harrassment was to get the stations to drop the conservative programming or use them to nudge the conservative broadcasters to censor themselves and not criticize Democratic Party programs, agendas or President Johnson.
The demands for free air time to reply had gone into the thousands by the time the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater in July, then the DNC operation moved into even higher gear with a tax exempt front organization called the National Council for Civic Responsibility of the Public Affairs Institute. It was headed up by liberal Republican lawyer Arthur Larson, who served in the Eisenhower Administration.
A quarter of a million dollars was pumped into producing counterprogramming for radio stations and monitoring and harassment operations against conservative preachers and commentators demanding free time under FCC fairness rules.
Larson, when interviewed in by Friendly for his book in the scandal ridden 1970's expressed his regrets: "The whole thing was not my idea....but let's face it, we decided to use the Fairness Doctrine to harass the extreme right. In light of Watergate, it was wrong. We felt the ends justified the means. They never do...I guess I was a babe in the woods. As soon as I knew the Democrats were putting money into it, I wanted out".
One radio station owner refused to give free air time when challenged over a conservative preacher's broadcast. Reverend John Norris of WGCB in Red Lion, PA fought the air time request from Democrat operative Fred Cook all the way to the Supreme Court. The liberal court headed up by the infamous Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled against WGCB in the historic "Red Lion" decision.
The liberal Friendly got pulled into writing "The Good Guys, The Bad Guys and The First Amendment" after RIchard NixOn chose to use the Fairness Doctrine against NBC News.
To be fair, he had to discuss how Democrats used it, too.
Political machines know how to deal with their enemies.
Both parties have them and they have been used, are being used and will be used in the future.
I miss the old Joe Pyne Show...
I used to challenge one of my liberal teachers in high school back in the 1970’s and he used to chuckle and tell me I sounded like Joe Pyne.
I was too young to remember his show. There are some You Tube clips of him.
Cancer cut short his life before I had a chance to see or hear him.
Joe was Rush before Rush was...
Interesting article. Too bad right wing broadcasters didn’t appreciate what they had in the president. There is no doubt Kennedy was squarely a conservative in his economic and anti-communist policies, especially compared to his successor.
It’s long past time when voterrs neeed to challenge the ability of the MSM stations to remain on the air under current FCC rules.
In foreign policy, Kennedy refused US air support to the Cubans when the CIA landed them at the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis ended in a backroom deal to pull US missiles from Turkey and suspend Cuban exile activity against Castro. Kennedy did the test ban treaty with the Soviets in 63 and was supporting the UN policy in the Congo’s civil war. That meant crushing an anti-communist faction in the country.
He was “moderate” on civil rights and when the protests reached a boiling point in 1963, he as PO’ed with Martin Luther King. One of my next posts will lay out the timeline there which seems to have 1964 election implications.