Election 1944: Opponents lay ban on speech to Roosevelt (8-26-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (August 26, 1944)


Opponents lay ban on speech to Roosevelt

GOP Senators help stir up controversy

Washington (UP) –
Two Republican Senators today laid on the White House doorstep responsibility for the War Department’s sudden reversal of its decision to let the Socialist Party broadcast “a political address” over Army shortwave stations to servicemen overseas.

The Socialists had sought permission for the broadcast on the grounds that President Roosevelt’s Aug. 12 speech from Bremerton, Washington, rebroadcast to troops, was a “political address.”

Their request was based on the Soldier Voting Act, which provides that if a political address is rebroadcast to troops, equal time must, if requested, be allowed other political parties with presidential candidates in at least six states.

Decision is reversed

The War Department announced yesterday that it would grant the Socialists’ request, apparently agreeing that Mr. Roosevelt’s Bremerton speech was “political.”

Six hours later, Assistant Secretary of War Joseph J. McCloy rescinded the action, holding that the President’s Bremerton “report” was not a “political speech” and that therefore no equal time was due any other political candidate.

Senator Homer Ferguson (R-MI) said that the Socialists should appeal the new War Department decision directly to the White House because if “any pressure” had been brought to effect the Army’s reversal, that would be the place to look for it.

Wherry hits McCloy

Senator Kenneth S. Wherry (R-NE) said there was “no doubt” that the Army did an “about-face” because of White House pressure. He called for a senatorial investigation of War Department official decisions.

The Republican Senators’ views were reflected by Socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas who said in Denver that the President “either directly or indirectly” ruled his own speech was “not a political talk.” Mr. Thomas called the War Department’s reversal “unfortunate but not surprising.”

Senator Claude Pepper (D-FL), ardent administration supporter, denied that Mr. Roosevelt’s speech was political. Senator Pepper said the President “could have done a lot better than that in a political speech.”

Calls it a ‘report’

In ordering the Army’s reversal of its decision to grant the Socialists radio time, Mr. McCloy said the Department determined that the President’s “report” was “not political” and that accordingly no broadcast time would be given the Socialists “on such a basis.” In its earlier decision acceding to the Socialists’ demands, the War Department referred to the President’s talk as a “speech.”

Mr. McCloy’s announcement follows:

It has just been called to my attention that a decision was made by an Army agency to grant time to the Socialist Party for an overseas broadcast to troops on the basis of that party’s contention the President’s report at Bremerton was a “political address” within the meaning of Title V of Public Law 227. I have reconsidered this decision. The War Department determines that the President’s report was not “political” and accordingly no time will be granted to the Socialist Party on such basis.

Issued by colonel

The War Department’s Public Relations Office credited the earlier decision favoring the Socialists to Col. Robert Cutler, Soldier Vote Coordinator for the Department. Col. Culter declined to say whether Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson had approved his decision, and Army Public Relations chief Maj. Gen. Alexander D. Surles said he didn’t think “the Secretary was aware of the situation.”

Norman Thomas, in Denver, said of the War Department’s reversal:

There is no way to answer the ruling by the War Department. It is unfortunate, but not surprising.

The Commander-in-Chief has, either directly or indirectly, ruled that his speech was not a political talk. It is a taste of what we can expect in the future if the President is going to exploit his position as Commander-in-Chief!

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 27, 1944)


General promised Socialists’ time

New York (UP) – (Aug. 26)
Maj. Gen. F. H. Osborn, director of the Information and Educational Division of the Army Service Forces, was the officer who promised the Socialist Party radio time for an overseas broadcast equal to that of President Roosevelt’s Bremerton speech.

Harry Fleischman, Socialist Party secretary, said Gen. Osborn made his promise in a letter to him dated Aug. 21, and referred him to Capt. Albert E. Gibson of the Army Service Forces here for assistance.

Mr. Fleischman said Gen. Osborn’s letter was in answer to Socialist Party claims that Mr. Roosevelt’s speech was political and therefore the Socialist Party was entitled to rebuttal time. Gen. Osborn suggested that “in order to comply with your request under the terms of Law Title V” the party should draw up a 38-minute script, the exact length of the President’s, which would be given free time, Mr. Fleischman said.

Mr. Fleischman said:

This letter is in direct contradiction to the statement of Paul Porter [public relations chief of the Democratic Party] that the Army’s classification [as political] of the President’s speech at Bremerton was made by a lieutenant and therefore unofficial.