Huey Long was murdered before ever leaving a lasting impression. People thought of
Long as a positive influence on a country whose upper echelon refused to let wealth trickle down. Long's insistence on
increased taxation of the wealthy was something Father Coughlin agreed with wholeheartedly.
Some speculate it was Long's death
that prompted a more no-holds-barred way of communication from Coughlin. In 1936, the humble Roman Catholic radio host
became a vigilant naysayer of money-hungry, country-disruptive financial practices. He became convinced that President
Roosevelt and his "Jewish conspirators" were keeping the country from reaching its full potential.
Coughlin soon found he had competition. Monsignor John A. Ryan, another nationally known priest, turned on Coughlin after
Coughlin's shunning of Roosevelt and increasingly anti-Semitic viewpoints. Joseph P. Kennedy, Roosevelt, Eugenio Cardinal
Pacelli, and Bishop Francis Spellman continuously worked to get the Vatican to silence Coughlin. In 1936, Coughlin was
ordered silent by the Vatican.
Father Coughlin never wavered in his speech, however, and as the year drew on, his radio show became ripe with anti-Semitic tones. He blamed Jewish bankers for the Russian Revolution, and cited that Jewish influence
created great turmoil in the region. In 1938, Coughlin published a newspaper, Social Justice, which for all intents and
purposes, was a newspaper aimed at directly attacking Jewish people.
The times had watched Father Coughlin lend support to
Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Then at a speech Coughlin gave in the Bronx – perhaps his most famous –
he gave a Nazi salute and yelled out, "When we get through with the Jews in America, they'll think the treatment
they received in Germany was nothing." Proving this statement wasn't a one-time lapse of judgment, Coughlin stated
"Jewish persecution only followed after Christians first were persecuted," after the Jews across Germany were
attacked, killed and burned out of house and home.
His speeches and programs were becoming even more anti-Semitic
from that point, and radio stations in New York and Chicago began refusing to air his content without first pre-approving
his scripts. One of the only available stations for Coughlin was the small WHBI in Newark, New Jersey.
Coughlin's anti-Semitism made him a hero in Nazi Germany, where newspapers ran daily, stating that "America is not
allowed to hear the truth." Some of the American public shared Coughlin's views, and 2,000 supporters gathered and
marched in New York, protesting the migration of Jewish refugees from Hitler's camps. These protests were not short-lived;
they went on for several months, and Coughlin embraced his supporters.
At the height of his anti-Semitism, Coughlin had joined
forces with an organization named the "Christian Front," which cited the now-famous priest as a vital influence.
In 1940, the FBI shut down the Christian Front, after discovering the group was arming itself and planning to murder Jews,
communists, and even United States Congressmen. Although Father Coughlin was never directly linked with the Christian Front,
he never disassociated himself from their radical intentions. His reputation soon declined as a result.
The history of American radio is deep and virtually timeless. Long before
man ever conceived of such ideas as space shuttles or Broadband connected Internet, the simple radio was the gem of the
era. For every radio personality we know of today, there are more which we forget. Long before Rush Limbaugh's ultra-conservative
viewpoints turned the heads of the masses, Father Charles Coughlin and his radio show did the same.
Early Broadcasts (1926)
hit the airways with his radio broadcasts in 1926. Nothing fancy or over-the-top, Father Coughlin's show was a humble
talk-radio program that dealt with issues of American living, religion, and a slight touch of politics. His weekly sermon
was preached out of Detroit, via the CBS sponsored WJR radio station. For five years, Coughlin delivered a weekly show
to many listeners.
Father Coughlin was soon forced
to raise funds for his radio show once CBS dropped their free sponsorship of the program in 1931. He strived to achieve
his own national network, and with the perseverance he would later become famous for, Coughlin amassed millions of listeners
in as little as a year.
for Franklin D. Roosevelt
the ears of the public, Coughlin's word was as good as gold to many hard-working, God-fearing Americans. Around the time
of the Great Depression, Coughlin lent unabashed support to Presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Presidential election of 1932. Hoping to help heal America after the Depression ravaged and shook her foundations Coughlin voiced strong support for "The New Deal," a plan of Roosevelt's that
would help a struggling country to her feet.
His radio show kept
listeners up-to-speed on the latest happenings in Washington once Roosevelt was elected. Father Coughlin did his part by
remaining impartial for the first years of Roosevelt's term, only lending support through prayer and well-wishes. His
"news-like" delivery to the public created a bond, which would later help Coughlin when he needed credibility
as a strong political voice.
Outspoken Discontent for FDR
two years into the New Deal, and Coughlin's soft-spoken support began to turn to outspoken discontent. Father Coughlin's
idea for a better America went against Roosevelt's pro-capitalist initiative, and his disdain for money-hungry politics
became all too evident in his future broadcasts. Coughlin then worked to help worker's rights and formed the National Union
for Social Justice.
Listeners began to hear less about God and
religion, and more about the negative influence of international bankers and Wall Street. Always citing that the general public was his main concern, Coughlin was granted leeway when it came to political matters.
His priesthood lent an infallible shroud in the beginning.
the mid 1930s, Coughlin was the preeminent Roman Catholic public speaker on all issues political and financial. His radio
show picked up more listeners with each sharply spoken criticism of capitalist policies. At the height of Coughlin's disdain
for Roosevelt, he denounced him as a "tool of Wall Street," lending his support to politicians like Huey Long
and William Lemke.
His anti-capitalist musings were just the tip of the iceberg, however. Father Coughlin would soon be faced with charges of anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathizing.
Radio Show Cancellation
During his peak, Father Charles Coughlin was considered
the undisputed king of talk radio. And whether a fan of Coughlin's or one of the many denouncers of his "brand"
of social justice, he continued to systematically etch his place into the fabric of American culture. His show began in
the mid 1920s and peaked during the early 1930s. At the time, his broadcasts were one of the most popular in the country,
drawing in millions of viewers and receiving upwards of 80,000 letters per week.
The first outspoken voice against
Coughlin came from a fellow holy-man. The Reverend Walton E. Cole, a minister in Ohio, urged the Roman Catholic Church
to remove Coughlin and his seditious broadcasts from the air. Father Coughlin's personal attacks on Roosevelt, industrialism, and the Jewish people worked to have him shunned by many priests and pastors of the era, though Coughlin's show still remained on the air with
a heavy base.
When this approach didn't work, the Roosevelt administration declared that the First Amendment's free speech didn't
cover radio broadcasts, and Coughlin was promptly forced from the air when he was unable to receive a newly mandatory
operating permit. Coughlin's counter to this was to purchase independent air time and play prerecorded shows on the air.
In 1939, the Code Committee of the National Association of Broadcasters forged new rules and placed increasingly
rigid limitations on the sale of radio time to controversial spokesmen. This was directly aimed at Father Coughlin and
his unwillingness to concede his throne as the nation's top dissenting voice. Now, manuscripts would have to be
given in advance, and stations were threatened with a loss of license should they not comply with the new standards on "free
speech." In a 1939 issue of Social Justice, Coughlin stated that he had been forced off the air by those who controlled
circumstances beyond his reach.
Even though the government – the very entity put in place of guarding free speech –
found a loophole to destroy it, Coughlin estimated that the written word was still "untouchable." He then started
to heavily print uncensored editorials in his newspaper. In a relentless game of cat-and-mouse, the Roosevelt administration
stepped in again removing Father Coughlin's mailing rights and making it impossible for his papers to reach their destinations.
The administration cited that Coughlin could print whatever he wanted, but did not have the right to use the United States
Post Office Department to send his publications.
Soon after, Coughlin found his influence was greatly reduced.
The world quickly began to change around Coughlin, and he was now considered a true enemy of the state for his isolationist
ways and sympathetic leanings toward the enemy. He was ordered to stop his political activities and take over the duties
of parish priest at the Shrine of the Little Flower. Coughlin retired in 1966 and continued to write anti-communist papers until his death in 1979.
Throughout history, there has been no greater example of
the power of radio than Father Charles Coughlin's radio show of the Depression-Era 1900s. Although his show started as a weekly sermon, touching on aspects of God and family and
mostly catering to children and young adults, it quickly became evident that Coughlin had a mind for politics, and a tongue
without a filter. He began expressing forward views on America's social reform.
Coughlin was outspoken against many atrocities in his own country – including the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK planned to "punish" Coughlin for his brazen speech – but it was the Soviet Union that bore the brunt
of the Father's fury. Coughlin stated that the communist government had purposely made a divorce easy and that this idea
of an anti-family was quickly making its way to the states. He referred to this as the "Bolshevism of America."
Against Big Business & Industrialism
Father Coughlin was also very much opposed to socialism, communism,
Marxism, and any other similar political ideology that put the power of the people into the hands of the government. He
firmly believed that the best way to combat this flawed way of thinking was to implement policies of new social reform
and overall equality. It was not only communism that Coughlin stood against, however; he was also a denouncer of Big Business
and industrialism – what we know today as capitalism.
the wealth in the hands of the few, though fiscally viable for the few, is detrimental to the many. Believing this wholeheartedly,
Coughlin set out to put an end to the vicious cycle of greed which he blamed for the Great Depression, the dissolution of
the American family, and war and hate mongering. By 1930, Coughlin had earned a reputation for being one of the country's
foremost authorities on anti-communism, and was invited by Hamilton Fish to appear before the House of Representatives
to investigate communist activities.
Coughlin, never one to shy away
from a crowd, accepted the invitation and proceeded to criticize leftist groups in America. However, Coughlin also seized
the opportunity and harshly criticized Henry Ford and other leading industrialists, citing that their greed was the downfall
of a nation.
Support of FDR turns to Disdain and Anti-semistism
In 1932, Coughlin put his support in Franklin D. Roosevelt,
and supported his "New Deal." Within two years, Coughlin's steadfast support turned to dedicated disdain, and
he began urging Roosevelt to stray from the capitalist structure and establish a Central Bank. During this period, Coughlin
became involved in many trade unions, fighting for automotive workers' rights, and insisting that veterans from the First
World War be given compensation.
Coughlin would soon completely turn his back on Roosevelt, forming the National Union of Social
Justice, publishing a newspaper (Social Justice Weekly), and eventually joining the Christian Front. His views continued
against communism and the dangers involved. He began blaming the Jewish people for Marxism and even claimed that the Nazi
Government was a necessary defense against the Soviet Union. Eventually, Coughlin became known as simply "anti-government,"
and even "anti-American."