Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 25, 2007

Frank L. Kluckhohn follow-up

Filed under: Fascism,journalism — louisproyect @ 4:28 pm

Yesterday, after I reported on the pro-Franco reporting of NY Timesman Frank L. Kluckhohn during the Spanish Civil War, I was somewhat surprised to discover a comment in his defense from one of his relatives, a man named R.H. Kluckhohn who describes himself as a retiree keen on model railroads and active in his local Episcopalian church:

Ya gotta love those ad hominem diatribes and partial quotes. Fact: Franco won and kicked Frank Kluckhohn out of Spain. So much for polemics.

If Frank Kluckhohn was kicked out of Spain for anything he wrote about Franco, that seemed to have eluded the attention of his editors who simply noted that he had been reassigned to Mexico in 1936. (It should be added, however, that he was expelled from Mexico for reporting “the woes of foreign businessmen with such zeal that Mexican authorities lost patience,” according to Time Magazine.

If anything, his tender concerns for foreign businessmen in a radicalized Mexico seems completely in line with his hostility to the Spanish Republic.

When he was in Mexico, Kluckhohn filed a number of articles on Leon Trotsky. At this time, he was pals with a character named Frank Jellinek who, according to Trotsky’s bodyguard Joseph Hansen, was a GPU agent using the cover of a reporting job for PM Magazine in New York. At a press conference on the findings of the John Dewey Commission of Inquiry on the Moscow Trials, Jellinek showed up with Kluckhohn but had to be removed for making a disturbance.

After leaving the NY Times, Kluckhohn became an adviser to the Secretary of Defense in the Truman administration in 1948. From that point on, he kept shifting rightward steadily until his death in an auto accident in 1970. In the 1960s, he directed an outfit called “Committee to End Aid to the Soviet Enemy” and then moved on to the Press Ethics Committee, which the NY Times obituary described as “designed to ferret out slanted reporting and editing of the news”–in other words a forerunner to Reed Irvine’s Accuracy in Media, David Horowitz’s Frontpage, et al.

Here’s a good article on what Kluckhohn was up to around this time:

The Washington Post, Apr 25, 1969
Washington Merry-Go-Round
Neo-Nazis Plan Press Ethics Unit
By Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson

One of the most significant operations of the secret neo-Nazi movement In the United States is a plan to establish a press ethics committee to rate newspapermen and broadcasters and to censure those who embarrass “the movement.”

Director of this committee is Frank Kluckhohn, who has been close to Willis Carto, chief mainspring of the neo Nazi underground and organizer of the Liberty Lobby. Carto helped raise $90,000 which was distributed to conservative Congressional candidates last year.

Chief danger of this underground is its influence with a long list of Congressmen to whom it contributed heavily.

One of those enlisted was the sonorous, oratorical, naive Sen. Everett McKinley Dirk sen of Illinois, Republican Leader in the Senate, who has played directly into the hands of the underground.

Dirksen did exactly what Kluckhohn and the Liberty Lobby have been hoping to do by attacking the New York Times and its reporter, Neil Sheehan, for digging into the manner in which Otto Otepka raised the money to pay his attorney, Roger Robb, plus other defense expenses in his battle against the State Department The Department, under Dean Rusk, had dropped Otepka for leaking classified information on Walt Rostow and others to Sen. Tom Dodd (D-Conn.). Rostow was the National Security Adviser to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

President Nixon has now promoted Otepka from his former $14,000 job in the State Department to a $36,000 job on the Subversive Activities Control Board. By so doing, Mr. Nixon rebuffed his own Secretary of State, William P. Rogers, who refused to reinstate Otepka. Robb, Otepka’s attorney, has been promoted by Mr. Nixon to the U.S. Court of Appeals, one of the most important judicial appointments in the nation.

Persecuting N.Y. Times

When the New York Times dug into the John Birch Society and other right-wing sources from which Otepka had raised his legal defense fund, Sen. Dirksen took the unusual step of denouncing the Times, and threatened to denounce on the floor of the Senate the reporter who wrote the story. It was the New York Times, incidentally, which fired Kluckhohn. And it was Dirksen who urged President Johnson to save the Subversive Activities Control Board, to which Otepka has now been appointed.

What the New York Times did was a straight piece of reporting, which every newspaper has a right and obligation to do in order to keep the public informed. Reporter Sheehan showed how Otepka had been palsy-walsy with the John Birch Society and had raised at least $22,000 from its members or its fronts.

Sheehan queried Otepka about these activities. He declined to discuss them.

Though the Times did a thorough Job of probing Otepka’s ties with the John Birch Society, it did not go into the equally significant manner in which the Liberty Lobby and the neo-Nazi movement has backed Otepka.

Stifling News Criticism

If Sen. Dirksen’s angry blast at the New York Times stands as a precedent, it means that newspapers cannot report on the activities of a presidential appointee facing Senate confirmation without risk of being attacked in the Senate. This is exactly what Willis Carto and Frank Kluckhohn, with their press ethics committee, are trying to accomplish. They want to hamstring critical comment by newspapers.

For instance, the Abilene Reporter-News in Texas recently exposed the John Birch Society connections of certain candidates running for mayor and city council of Abilene. The background of these candidates was relatively unknown to the electorate prior to the Abilene Reporter-News expose. As a result of the newspaper’s enterprise, the Birchite slate was badly defeated.

Frank Kluckhohn, the man who would head the proposed press ethics committee, had a spectacular career as a New York Times correspondent, being jailed by the British in Africa, arrested and deported by President Peron of Argentina. U.S. Ambassador George Messersmith in Buenos Aires sent a 20-page report to the State Department after the Argentine incident, calling Kluckhohn irresponsible and unbalanced.

Dropped by the New York Times, Kluckhohn got a job under John Foster Dulles in the State Department, later switched to the Republican National Committee, where he worked for four years.

While working for the Republican National Committee Kluckhohn ghosted two of the most scurrilous of the anti-Johnson books—”The Inside on LBJ” and “Lyndon’s Legacy.” Though the Republican National Committee steadfastly denied it had any connection with these smear-books, the committee’s vouchers for July 1964 showed a $1000 payment to Frank Kluckhohn. Kluckhohn collected another $1000 from the right-wing “Americans for Constitutional Action.”

This is the man whom the neo-Nazi underground proposes to put in charge of a press ethics committee to pass judgment on what should or should not be published.



  1. Good stuff. When I was a kid in Alaska, the incumbent for U.S. senate, Mike Gravel, was taken on by a man named C.R. Lewis, who was a sort of construction magnate from the Anchorage area. This was in 1974. Granted Gravel was a bit of a grandstander, but the right wing in Alaska was absolutely shameless in its passionate defense of Lewis’s membership in the John Birch Society. Once that got out, though, the wider public decisively sent Mr. Lewis packing. It wasn’t even close. But they learned from their errors. Since that time, however, the oil interests have fairly decisively dominated the Alaskan congressional delegation with the likes of Don Young, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski (Moron Frank’s daughter). They made absolute mincemeat of a former Governor, Steve Cowper, after he stood up to big oil in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill, and he was actually fairly friendly to big oil, in fact, works as a corporate lawyer for a Texas petroleum interest today.

    So I’m grateful there was, for a time, journalists who wanted to out this nonsense.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — March 25, 2007 @ 8:29 pm

  2. Thank you for the lead on the TIME article, which I had not seen. TIME failed to elaborate. The “woes of American businessmen” were principally the expropriation of the oil industry by the government of Mexico. Frank (my uncle) was explicit about his position and bias, as a professional reporter is ethically required to be. As for me, I much prefer Groucho and John to Karl and Vladimir Ilyich.

    Comment by R H Kluckhohn — March 26, 2007 @ 4:02 am

  3. I’m reminded of Tom Lehrer’s take on the Spanish Civil War, “They won the war, but we had all the good songs.”

    I’m not certain, even if I could go back in time, that I would have had a dog in that fight. Had the Republic prevailed in 1936, at the height of the yezhovschina, I somehow doubt that the Stalinists would have beaten their swords into plowshares.

    The American volunteers were brave but mostly naïve, and upon their return most of them toed the Party line on throught their dotage. Old men always seem to send young men to fight, usually in the pursuit of some folly or another.

    Comment by Grumpy Old Man — March 26, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

  4. “Neo-Nazi.” Is that, like “Communist,” something one calls people one doesn’t like? And did you really mean that Groucho Marx and John Lennon were neo-Nazi?

    I’ve never seen much difference between Communists and Nazis except the color of their shirts. Both are groups of thugs out to acquire power by intimidation.

    Oh, regarding the Drew Pearson article cited, Drew was the one thing Frank Kluckhohn said he and Harry Truman ever agreed on. “Harry,” he said, “called Drew a son of a bitch in public, but I said it to his face.”


    Comment by R H Kluckhohn — March 28, 2007 @ 3:17 am

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