• U.S.

The Press: Suit Dismissed

2 minute read

Thirteen months ago, when Rev. Charles Edward Coughlin was radiorating about the Jews, something happened which profoundly annoyed him. Detroit’s respected Rabbi Leo M. Franklin, good friend of Henry Ford (who was once publicly anti-Semitic), visited Mr. Ford, induced him to issue a statement, which the Rabbi had written, sympathizing with the Jews. The Detroit Free Press front-paged the statement. Father Coughlin leaped to his microphone, charged that the Free Press had “venally” made it appear that the statement was written by Mr. Ford. The Free Press in another front-page statement retorted that “Father Coughlin … is giving still further evidence of his congenital inability to tell the truth.” Editorially it made reference to “inaccuracies and misstatements,” to “speakers who are careless of the truth.” These cracks, plus some earlier ones by the Free Press’s Editorial Director Malcolm Wallace Bingay, formed the basis of Father Coughlin’s $4,000,000 suit for libel.

Father Coughlin’s suit got little publicity; his bill of particulars was not made public. Newsmen who heard of it looked forward to a riotous courtroom rough-Stumble between the priest and Mr. Bingay. But that free-for-all was not to be.

Last week, on motion of Father Coughlin’s lawyers, the suit was dismissed “without cost to either party.” Both parties to the suit joined in mumbling something about “the time and effort which would be consumed in the suit might better be directed to challenging public attention to those things which imperil America.”

Who made the first move toward dropping the suit, and why? Those who guessed it was the Free Press thought it was because it would be impossible to prove that a man had been unable to tell the truth since birth—i.e., congenitally. Those who guessed it was Father Coughlin had more theories: 1) his Archbishop had called him off; 2) he had demanded a jury trial, which might bring to light a great deal of prejudice against him; 3) he had undoubtedly heard (even courtroom attaches knew it) that Free Press investigators had fine-toothed all his utterances, turned up many an alleged untruth. In his discussion, for example, of the famed Swiss “trial” of the forged Protocols of Zion, Father Coughlin claimed that the judge was a Jew; the Free Press at considerable expense learned that this was not so.

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