December 22, 2017

1940. Democratic Chair Asserts Hitler Wants Roosevelt to Lose Re-election

Edward J. Flynn Claims Germany Prefers Wendell Willkie
Wendell Willkie, the Republican presidential nominee in 1940, giving his "Report to the People" remarks on October 26, 1942 (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism and fall of fascism in Europe. In the days leading up to the 1940 presidential election, Democratic National Committee Chair Edward J. Flynn argued that Republican candidate Wendell Willkie was Hitler's preferred candidate, and claimed that fascist agents were attempting to influence the election.

From The New York Times, October 31, 1940:
Flynn Accuses Him of Causing South Americans to Fear We Cannot Protect Them
Chairman, Answering the First Voters, Says He Withdrew Help to Youth Congress in July

Edward J. Flynn, Democratic National Chairman, charged yesterday that Wendell L. Willkie, Republican candidate for President, was playing the game of Adolf Hitler and Axis powers by belittling the nation's defenses and causing among South American nations the fear that the United States was not adequately armed to protect their interests.

Mr. Flynn's charge, made at his morning press conference in the Hotel Biltmore, was in elaboration of language contained in a formal statement assailing Mr. Willkie as "the most arrant demagogue that ever aspired to the Presidency of the United States."

Accusing the Republican candidate of failure to repudiate a whispering campaign against President Roosevelt, Mr. Flynn went on to mention "the publication of the definite declarations of support of his (Mr. Willkie's) candidacy by every Fascist organization in the country and the definite testimony from overseas that Herr Hitler and the Axis generally are doing what they can to accomplish the defeat of President Roosevelt and have doubtless ordered their representatives in this country how to proceed."

In response to questions by reporters concerning the alleged efforts of Herr Hitler and the Axis generally to bring about the defeat of President Roosevelt, Mr. Flynn replied that "they're pretty nearly doing it through the Presidential candidate."

"I think they're pretty nearly doing it through Willkie himself," Mr. Flynn declared. "I'll say this. I'll say that Mr. Willkie is playing the game of the Axis by attempting to belittle the defense of the country and by also causing some degree of fear in South America, among the nations of South America, that we are not as completely armed as we should be to defend them. Certainly any person that attempts to belittle the resources of this country to build up defenses is giving comfort to the Axis powers."

Replying to another question, Mr. Flynn said it was for the people to decide whether "deliberate" comfort was being given to the Axis powers.

Answers First Voters League

Mr. Flynn made public a letter written by him on July 24 to Jack McMichael of the American Youth Congress, withdrawing financial support from that group because of its alleged failure to keep a promise that it would, at its convention in Wisconsin earlier in the Summer, denounce communism and dictatorships.

Mr. Flynn explained that the letter was his comment on a full-page advertisement in Wednesday's New York Times, in which the First Voters League, Inc., referred to a meeting in Mr. Flynn's home on May 8, at which Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt was present and at which financial aid was given the National Youth Congress. Mr. Flynn noted that at the time he was not chairman of the Democratic national organization.

Mr. Flynn then exhibited to reporters a so-called "proclamation" purposedly issued by the Independent Young Americans, Inc., discussing the Warm Springs Foundation at Warm Springs, Ga., and stating that it was a private business operated for profit and not a Roosevelt charity and philanthropy. The "proclamation," signed by W. E. Porter and Robert Howard, addresses not given, discussed at some length the financial and corporate set-up of the foundation and its holding company.

"This is the filthiest thing that has ever been done in American politics," Mr. Flynn declared, adding that the circular was being distributed throughout the country and was tantamount to a charge that the Warm Springs Foundation was a racket instead of a philanthropic activity. Making it clear that he was not charging the Republican organization or its leaders with any connection with the document, Mr. Flynn asserted that "if they don't know about it, they certainly don't know what's going on." The document, he declared, was just another item in a campaign to "smear" President Roosevelt.

At Republican National headquarters all knowledge of and responsibility for the "proclamation" was denied.