Westbrook Pegler - Life and Career - Pulitzer Prize and Activism

Pulitzer Prize and Activism

In 1941 Pegler became the first columnist to win a Pulitzer Prize for reporting, for his work in exposing racketeering in Hollywood labor unions, focusing on the criminal career of Willie Bioff which led to the conviction of George Scalise. As historian David Witwer has concluded, "He depicted a world where a conspiracy of criminals, corrupt union officials, Communists, and their political allies in the New Deal threatened the economic freedom of working Americans."

In the winter of 1947 he started a campaign to draw public attention to the 'Guru Letters' of former Vice-President Henry A. Wallace, claiming they showed Wallace's unfitness for the office of President he had announced he would seek in 1948. Pegler characterized Wallace as a "messianic fumbler," and "off-center mentally." There was a personal confrontation between the two men on the subject at a public meeting in Philadelphia in July 1948. Several reporters, including H.L. Mencken, joined in the increasingly aggressive questioning. Wallace declined to comment on the letters, while labelling some of the reporters "stooges" for Pegler. At the conclusion of the meeting, H.L. Mencken acidly suggested that every person named "Henry" should be put to death, offering to commit suicide if Wallace was executed first.

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