The Private Papers of a Cub Reporter

Walter Winchell

New York Daily Mirror/March 21, 1944

Our Love Letter Dep’t: House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 1940: “My dear Mr. Winchell: May I take advantage of this opportunity to express my appreciation to you for your loyal support. You have not hesitated to criticize the committee when you believed that we had made mistakes and I have accepted such constructive criticism as evidence of your interest in the work we are doing. Unlike some people, you have been equally opposed to all forms of dictatorship and un-American activities. You have supported the committee when we exposed Communist activities the same as when we exposed Nazi activities. Your attitude has, therefore, been one of a real American who is opposed to all forms of totalitarianism .. . . Whether the committee is continued or not I shall always have a warm spot in my heart for you as a result of your loyal support and splendid help.—Sincerely yours, Martin Dies.”

Congressman Dies of Texas, who can be trusted to reach his full nuisance value during the years of presidential elections, has made accusations against this reporter . . .He made the on the floor of the House, where his immunity relieves him of the job of proving them . . . Proof is of no great concern to Dies. The whole history of his Committee to Investigate Un-American Affairs is a travesty on the methods of an honest trial . . . In fact, congress offers no better example of the kangaroo court than the Dies committee.

Dies comes up with a request for finances every year. They are voted to him by the most violently anti-administration forces in Congress . . . So it is up to Dies to pay off for that support by embarrassing the administration whenever he can. That’s why he gets noisiest and most reckless in election years . . . Winchell, whose broadcasts have attacked the stand of the crew that vote Dies his appropriation, and offered support to the other side, was an ideal victim for the Dies blatherskating. Dies can pass around his tin cup for his next appropriation with the sales talk that he fought their fight against the Winchell broadcasts.

How long will America stand for this person from Texas? Look at him! What is he?  . . . One of the dime-a-dozen statesmen of no particular stature . . . He got his first appropriation by convincing the gullibles that America was threatened with overthrow by the Communists. Whom did he pin the plot on? Stalin? No. Trotsky? No, no . . . I’ll tell you whom he dragged up as the powerful menace to the American way of life. He named Shirley Temple. Shirley, not yet 10 years old at the time, was the excuse Dies offered for the hundred and some thousand dollars he wheedled out of Congress at a time when the Bundists and other genuine enemies of democracy were at their strongest.

We must be a fun-loving people, or Dies would not have been in public life all this time . . . His later “revelations,” while lacking the rich low comedy of the Temple expose, have been equally asinine. For the most part, Dies harasses the helpless. His special dish is a government employee. Acting on the assumption that an underling in government service has no great influence, Dies serves them up in job lots as dangerous Reds . . . These recurrent blasts require the department of justice to waste a lot of time in investigation. The probe usually proves that Dies was talking through his hat. Mighty few of his accusations hold water.

Now Dies is demagoging about fair play. He argues that when a broadcaster makes a charge, the person named shall have the opportunity to reply . . . But look who’s saying it! . . . Dies’ charges , so often disproved, have been made repeatedly without the accused being offered a chance to defend themselves. They usually know they’ve been investigated when they read the congressman’s “findings” in the headlines. He has been known to hunt down his victims without even notifying the members of his own committee . . . It’s almost as if he were afraid of his own evidence, fearful that it couldn’t stand up under fair discussion. Members of his own committee have expressed themselves as sickened and disgusted by his tactics and openly charged him with operating a kangaroo court . . . This is the man who is chairman of a committee to investigate un-American affairs. What does he call American?

Yet, session after session, he comes up to ask congress for money—and gets it . . . Why aren’t we taxpayers told what he does with this money? He has never justified its expenditure . . . His record is almost free of operations against the agents of the Axis. On the rare occasions that he has (maybe to save face) made a charge against Nazi stooges, it has always been long after their crimes have been reported in the newspapers and magazines. . . . Dies has never needed those fat appropriations to find out those things. A few bucks to buy the newspapers and magazines would have covered the whole thing, and Dies could have restored the balance of the appropriation—though I have never read of him doing so . . . And I doubt if it cost more than $75,000 for him to inform himself of the sinister operations of Shirley Temple

Dies knows the value of riding the shirt-tails of the movie stars.. One year, along about appropriation time, after a year of turning in no menaces of Miss Temple’s stature, Dies had another sashay at the flicker folk . . . For surefire publicity, accusing movie stars of ANYTHING is like shooting ducks in a rain barrel. So Dies put the finger on Cagney, and some others, and fed on the headlines. The movie tycoons, easy to scare, played his game . . . The whole matter blew up smack in Dies’ face, but that never troubled the Texan. His specialty is making charges—confident that enough of the press is anti-Administration and will go to town for him.

It is hard to agree with many Washingtonians that Dies is dumb. They claim he is hoodwinked by his investigators, but I can’t go along with that easy judgment. I allow Dies is a smart hombre. If he weren’t, how could he get so far on nothing?  . . . As a statesman he is, of course, questionable. But as a headline hustler he’s as gifted as Broadway Rose. He has found his gimmick, which is to make a loud outcry to cover up the sad truth that he is accomplishing nothing worthwhile. It’s good demagoging—but hopeless as statesmanship. Which is okeh with Dies of Texas.

(Source: The Daily Mirror, https://ladailymirror.com/2014/03/27/in-1944-in-print-walter-winchell-vs-rep-martin-dies/)