Election 1944: Paper drops ‘battle page’ (10-12-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 12, 1944)


Paper drops ‘battle page’

Daily News cites libel suit fear

New York (UP) –
The New York Daily News announced today it had stopped publication of its “battle page” in which Republicans and Democratic organizations were given equal space and which was delivered free to 35 newspapers because of the possibility of “libel troubles” in “this hottest and bitterest campaign since 1928.”

The newspaper said it made its decision after receiving a letter from “a prominent Republican” that falsehoods were printed in a recent issue of the Democratic side of the battle page and a letter from a “prominent member of the CIO-PAC” saying he was libeled by the Republicans.

Low blows registered

With almost a month of the campaign left and “tempers rising on both sides,” the newspaper said, “some below-the-belt blows have already been registered and the probability is that more and more will be.”

The News said:

If the battle page should involve us in libel troubles, we don’t see how other papers carrying the battle page could escape being involved too.

“We are sorry to call it off, but it seems the wisest thing to do,” the newspaper concluded.

Fear called ‘horse laugh’

The Democratic National Committee issued a 1,000-word statement saying “Joseph Medill Patterson [publisher of The News] can dish it out but he can’t take it,” and describing his “professed fear of libel” as a “horse laugh” because “the trade knows the aggressive manner in which The News fights all libel threats.”

The committee’s statement said:

We sniffed a strong connection between the Patterson decision and the cartoon we ran the morning of the funeral of the page.

The cartoon showed Candidate Dewey standing firmly in the door concealing the Republican cellar gang from the electorate and one of that gang was Mr. Patterson’s cousin, Col. Robert R. McCormick of the arch-isolationist Chicago Tribune.

Half page printed

A statement from the Republicans was unavailable due to the absence of RNC Chairman Herbert Brownell.

The newspaper PM carried the Democratic half of the battle page in today’s edition, and centered the blank Republican column with a statement from the Republicans declaring their proposed column dealt with Columbus Day, which “we scrapped unfinished when we heard from The News.”