Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra
Episode 4: A Bad Angle
A paid agent of Hitler's government ramps up a targeted propaganda effort aimed at weakening democracy and supporting the fascist cause in America. His base of operations... the center of American democracy itself— the United States Congress. Sitting members of Congress, and the America First movement, take part in an elaborate scheme to subvert democracy. Laundering millions of pieces of Nazi propaganda through Congress and into the hands of the American people.
Norma Lundeen: Ladies and gentlemen, I come to you on a mission which is unprecedented in radio broadcasting.
Rachel Maddow: “A mission which is unprecedented in radio broadcasting.” Kinda sounds like melodramatic radio-age hyperbole, I know. But the speaker was in fact doing something unusual. She had essentially just been handed the airwaves at NBC, at the National Broadcasting Company, set loose to say whatever she wanted. Now, that was unusual because she did not work for NBC. She wasn’t a reporter, or a paid commentator, or a politician, or even a well-known public figure. And random people don’t just get to jump on a national radio broadcast whenever they feel like they have something to say. But the woman behind the mic that day, she was someone who was in a unique and interesting situation.
Norma Lundeen: I am the widow of Ernest Lundeen, United States senator from Minnesota, who was killed in an airplane crash on August 31, 1940.
Maddow: The widow of Senator Ernest Lundeen. Her name was Norma. When Norma Lundeen took to the airwaves that Sunday in May 1941, she and her family were very much still in the throes of grief. It hadn’t even been a year since her husband had died in that terrible, mysterious plane crash.
But that’s not exactly what Norma wanted to talk about when she stepped behind the mic that day. What she was there to do really was, as she put it, something unprecedented in radio broadcasting.
Norma Lundeen: Only a few days after the husband and father we loved had been laid away, this storm of malice broke. This is the man, who after the grave had closed on him, and he could no longer defend his good name, has been ruthlessly slandered by repeatedly suggesting that Senator Lundeen was not a loyal American. This statement is malicious and atrociously false.
Maddow: In the wake of the plane crash that killed Minnesota U.S. Senator Ernest Lundeen, a scandalous story had begun to unspool about how the Senator was tangled up with a Nazi agent. He was under federal investigation for, effectively, colluding with a hostile foreign power.
These allegations were being reported by crusading journalists, some of them with national reach. And it was a hot story: the worst civilian air crash in U.S. history, a Senator killed, three members of the justice department on the plane with him, killed in the same crash, the cause of the crash totally unclear; the reporting on his ties to the Hitler government, which was soon bolstered by legitimately shocking photos that emerged of Senator Lundeen standing under a giant swastika banner.
In late 1940 and early 1941, the Ernest Lundeen story… it started off bad, it took a hard right turn, but then it just kept getting worse and worse all the time with each new revelation.
And after about eight months of reading these reports about her deceased husband in the papers, hearing about them on the radio news, Norma Lundeen decided that she’d had enough.
Norma Lundeen: The dead cannot be hurt by vilification. It is those who love the dead, and who all the years of their lives will bear his name with pride, they are the ones who feel the force of the dagger driven into the back of the dead.
Maddow: Norma Lundeen made her case, defending her husband passionately and directly to the public. She also went right after the journalists who she said were responsible for the smears against him.
Norma Lundeen: A pair of columnists had written that two Department of Justice agents were on the plane with my husband when it crashed, that they had been assigned to watch him. All accusations of this nature are emphatically denied in the letters of the Attorney General Jackson and J. Edgar Hoover.
Maddow: Norma contacted the news networks directly, demanding that they put a gag on any journalist who wanted to talk about her late husband. And sometimes they did. We found correspondence from a Vice President at NBC telling Norma Lundeen that he personally had intervened to delete mentions of Senator Lundeen from two different broadcasts.
She threatened to sue one radio journalist who had reported a story about her late husband. She complained to the radio stations who carried his reporting, trying to get him taken off the air; she threatened the sponsors who advertised on the broadcasts in which he appeared.
And even beyond going after reporters, Norma denied what was inarguably clear to anyone with eyes. That picture of Ernest Lundeen, standing under that giant swastika? Norma had an answer for that. She said it was a big misunderstanding.
Norma Lundeen: A number of photographs of my husband were taken while he was speaking. One of those photographs was taken at such an angle as to convey the impression that my husband was standing beneath the swastika. As a matter of fact, he was standing under the stars and stripes. I have beside me four photographs proving the truth of my statement.
Maddow: It was just a bad angle. Just a misunderstanding. Don't believe your lying eyes.
But Norma Lundeen was just getting warmed up. Because what had really ticked her off was not just the reporting that her husband was being tailed by the FBI, or that he was under investigation for being in cahoots with a Nazi agent, or that he made a practice of standing under a big swastika banner. No, the thing that Norma was really set on denying first and foremost was the allegation that someone other than her husband had been writing his speeches.
Norma Lundeen: Innuendos have been made that a certain individual wrote my husband’s speeches. This is a deliberate falsehood designed to mislead. No one wrote my husband's speeches. He was fully capable of writing his own, and he wrote his own.
Maddow: And that right there, that is where Norma Lundeen slipped up. Because not only did she know for a fact that that allegation was true, that in fact an agent from Hitler's government really had been writing speeches for her Senator husband, she knew that it was true. And she knew that she herself had just hidden away the evidence that would prove it. That evidence would not stay hidden forever.
This is “Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra.”
Bradley Hart: His initial idea is that he's going to have a US Senator spreading Nazi propaganda on the floor of the Senate. The biggest names really in Republican congressional politics, they all fall under the spell of this sort of Nazi propaganda operation.
Radio Announcer: You’re about to hear an address delivered before a meeting of the America First Committee.
Nancy Beck Young: This group of people, if they were anything first, it was their own political success and careers first.
Hart: It's really a scheme of, of genius in some ways. I think we would say evil genius.
Maddow: Episode 4: A Bad Angle.
Radio Reporter: Senator Ernest Lundeen reported killed today in the crash of a Pennsylvania central airlines plane.
Maddow: After the plane crash that killed her husband, Norma Lundeen traveled to Washington D.C. The history books remember the senator’s widow as a tall, confident, well-spoken woman. She had a taste for flamboyant hats. And less than 48-hours after her husband had died, she — in one of her memorable hats — marched into his Senate office in the U.S. Capitol. Again, this was less than 48 hours after the crash that killed her husband.
But when she turned up at his office, she wasn’t there to comfort his staff, or to speak with his colleagues, or collect his personal effects. She did not want the photos of his kids off his desk. She was looking for something very specific. She told the staff that she wanted the Viereck files. She asked them to give her the Viereck files and she took them away with her. That was all she asked for. Here are historians Nancy Beck Young and Bradley Hart.
Young: Norma Lundeen directed, upon her husband's death, to have given to her all the Viereck files.
Hart: This was a closely guarded sort of set of correspondence that Norma Lundeen did not want out in the wider world.
Maddow: The Viereck files. Viereck was not some kind of code word. It was the last name of a guy: a guy named George Sylvester Viereck. Senator Ernest Lundeen and George Sylvester Viereck were old friends. And that Viereck file that the Senator's wife was looking for and that she took away so soon after her husband died, that file contained more than a decade's-worth of correspondence between Lundeen and Viereck.
In the immediate wake of her husband’s death, Norma Lundeen had a good reason for wanting that correspondence to never see the light of day. Because George Sylvester Viereck was not the kind of a person who ought to have been a long-standing close friend and work-collaborator with a sitting U.S. Senator.
Young: Viereck is a spy for the German government, part of his responsibility being cozying up to those in power in U.S. politics to gather as much information as possible and to try to get them to do things that will forestall U.S. entry into the war. That's Viereck's portfolio from Germany.
Maddow: George Sylvester Viereck was an agent working on behalf of the fascist government in Germany. He was kind of their top banana here. They funneled millions and millions of dollars through him and his various U.S. efforts on behalf of the German government.
His very, very well-funded mission in the United States was two-fold: to try to keep the United States from getting into World War II, but also to soften us up, to mess with us, to make us just less effective as a country, by finding and exploiting what the Germans called "kernels of disturbance" in the United States.
In 1941 in New York, a big academic study was done of Germany's propaganda efforts here to try to figure out why the Hitler government was putting so much effort, so much money, into propaganda targeting americans. What was Hitler trying to do?
The study explained that Berlin had charged German agents in the U.S. with finding these kernels of disturbance, which were described as, "racial controversies, economic inequalities, petty jealousies in public life, differences of opinion which divide political parties and minority groups.” Even the "frustrated ambitions of discarded politicians." Germany's agents operating in the U.S. were tasked with finding those things and exploiting them here, in the interest of "national demoralization.”
And George Sylvester Viereck was the top German agent in charge of executing that mission in the United States. This was Viereck’s life's work. He was very good at it. And he was a high profile person. His work, his identity, it really wasn’t a secret. He basically operated in plain sight in the United States for years.
Hart: This is a man who is a fairly known quantity. This was in no way a secret and Lundeen must have known the man he was dealing with was at least pro-German, if not actively working on behalf of the German government.
Maddow: One of the reasons Viereck operated so successfully for so long had something to do with the way he did business. He didn't just churn out propaganda and disinformation himself, although he did do plenty of that. His real talent was recruiting sympathetic Americans to do the work for him; recruiting Americans sometimes with cash, but sometimes just with his charm, with his powers of persuasion. And some Americans didn’t need much persuading. They were all in on the cause.
Radio Reporter: George Sylvester Viereck, the man who has been prominent for several years as a Nazi propagandist…
Maddow: Do you remember Francis Moran, the leader of the Christian Front in Boston? Remember the thousands and thousands of Nazi propaganda books and leaflets and pamphlets that he disseminated all over Boston and the Northeast? Well that material was supplied to Francis Moran by George Sylvester Viereck. And then it was Moran and his chapter of the Christian Front that so energetically distributed it.
That was classic Viereck. Material created by or approved by the Hitler government in Berlin, provided to viciously anti-Semitic groups, linked to both street violence against American Jews and also violent armed plots against the U.S. government; Viereck using kernels of disturbance here in American life to drive us apart from one another, to drive us apart from our allies, to destabilize life here at home, to scare us, to make fascism seem like it was on the march, and on its way here, and maybe we should welcome it.
Viereck supplied the Christian Front and other violent ultra-right groups around the country. He supplied high-profile and low-profile members of the America First movement coast-to-coast.
He operated all over the country in the lead-up to America entering World War II. But his biggest, boldest, most successful operation, is the one he ran from the seat of American democracy itself.
Hart: His initial idea is that he's going to have a U.S. Senator spreading Nazi propaganda or anti-war propaganda on the floor of the Senate.
Maddow: When George Viereck was looking for a member of Congress to rope into his new scheme to have the Hitler government advance its work through the U.S. Congress, Senator Ernest Lundeen was perhaps an obvious first target for him. And in more ways than one.
Senator Ernest Lundeen: I have never heard a German, or a German born American, with the gall to ask that we help Germany, but red, yellow, brown, black and white races all are expected to die for the British Empire. I warn the American people that we cannot defend America by defending old, decadent, and dying empires.
Maddow: Senator Lundeen had built his career on being outspoken against the US joining foreign wars. He was something close to famous for his opposition to World War I. That's when he had first gotten to know Viereck. And then in the run-up to World War II, he was basically the poster child in the Senate for leaving Germany alone to just do its thing.
But Senator Lundeen was also someone who always had money on the mind. In his time in the Senate, was accused of demanding kickbacks from his employees. His employees would get paid a salary by the Senate, but he would then demand that they hand over a portion of that salary back to him.
Young: Lundeen was someone who was maybe hurting a bit for money and open to questionable sources of financial support. He sees Lundeen as an easy mark.
Maddow: The deal that Viereck was offering to Senator Lundeen, it was a lucrative one.
Young: Once Lundeen was approached by Viereck, Lundeen was all in.
Maddow: Viereck told Lundeen that he had a plan by which they could make some pretty serious cash. Viereck would arrange for speeches that he wrote for Lundeen to be printed in major American magazines and newspapers. These speeches would run as articles, under Lundeen’s byline, as if the senator had written them himself. And they’d get paid for it.
Hart: We have a U.S. Senator with a quite literal German agent of influence sitting in his office, writing speeches for him, writing pieces that are paid pieces. When these speeches are published, he's actually splitting the profits with this German agent of influence.
Maddow: This wasn't just pocket money, this was a whole new second stream of considerable income for the Senator. Viereck wrote speeches and articles for Lundeen about how our supposed allies were weak and hypocritical and corrupt and doomed, how American democracy was corrupt and rigged, how the fascist government in Germany was strong, how the United States government should stay out of Germany’s way. Viereck would supply this material, supply these speeches to Lundeen, Lundeen would take them and read them verbatim on the floor of the Senate.
Young: The relationship that the two of them come up with is that Viereck will function as speech writer for Lundeen. That's a charitable way of putting it. Viereck wrote Lundeen's speeches. Lundeen might have added a comma, or changed the spelling of a word, but Lundeen did not do any significant, or even mild editing to the prose provided to him by Viereck.
Hart: What we know is true is that Viereck is receiving much of the material for these speeches from the German embassy itself. And Lundeen, from the archival record, seems to be making great use of what Viereck gives him.
Maddow: George Syvester Viereck, as a highly-paid, highly-ranked agent of Hitler’s government, he had his marching orders. He was trying to sow dissension among the American public about the war effort and about our own system of government, to spread misinformation that was favorable to Germany and disfavorable to us and our allies. And while he was doing that, he was also wheedling his way into the heart of American power.
Viereck's plan was working. He did manage to turn a sitting U.S. senator into a paid mouthpiece for a foreign fascist government. But that was only step one. He wanted this propaganda effort to have a broader reach. Much broader.
Hart: So what Viereck has done is he's realized that there's a way to game the American Congressional system against itself.
Maddow: This was the early 1940s. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, there was no news on TV. There were newspapers, the radio, newsreels at the movies, and then there was the mail.
If you were trying to reach Americans in their homes, if you were trying to influence Americans’ opinions and political leanings, and fundraise, and all the rest of it, you sent them mail. And members of Congress, importantly, were able to do that for free. It’s a Congressional privilege that’s called franking, which still exists today. And the old-fashioned idea behind it is that members of Congress should easily be able to communicate with their voters back home about what they’re doing in Washington. It should literally be free to send their constituents mail about any government business. What George Sylvester Viereck figured out was that he could weaponize that against the American people.
Hart: What Viereck realizes is that members of Congress have unique privileges relating to the words that they speak on the floor of the House or Senate and to the Congressional Record itself. He starts asking for huge numbers of these speeches to be printed — which are printed at government expense, of course — then he actually adds to this and begins asking staffers to provide him with franked envelopes, which can be mailed through the U.S. postal service for free.
Maddow: So Viereck would get pro-German speeches from the Hitler government, from the German embassy. Senator Ernest Lundeen would then deliver those speeches on the floor of the Senate, enter them into the Congressional Record. Viereck would then order Lundeen’s staff to print off gazillions of copies of those speeches, which would then be sent in pre-paid government envelopes to unwitting members of the public.
Young: Viereck would stand in Lundeen's office and use Lundeen's Senate phone to make phone calls to conduct their Nazi business in the United States, disseminating Nazi propaganda to unsuspecting Americans and it's not costing us, German Nazis, a single reichsmark. American tax payers were paying for Nazi propaganda with American tax dollars. Bold.
Maddow: By 1940, George Sylvester Viereck and Senator Ernest Lundeen were a well-oiled, two-man propaganda machine. It went on for years, right up until the day Lundeen died with one of Viereck’s speeches in his pocket. But for this scheme to be truly successful, Viereck needed his propaganda to go beyond Senator Lundeen’s reach with his constituents in Minnesota. Viereck needed to reach large numbers of Americans, to start turning the tide of public opinion away from U.S. interests and towards Germany. He needed to reach millions of Americans.
To reach that kind of scale, he needed more speeches. He needed more pre-paid envelopes. He was gonna need more Senators.
Hart: He realizes very quickly that one Senator isn't enough here.
Maddow: That’s next.
Maddow: When Senator Ernest Lundeen died, there was a stack of smoking-gun evidence locked inside a filing cabinet in his Senate office in the U.S. Capitol. It was all the correspondence between him and a man named George Sylvester Viereck. It was direct documentary evidence that the Senator had been colluding with a Nazi agent. Perhaps that is why the Senator's wife, Norma, took that file from his office and hid it away in the days after his death, in the hopes that that secret would follow Senator Lundeen to the grave.
Young: Norma Lundeen is going all spouse-proud and, "My husband was not a Nazi," saying things like that to the press. But historians who've studied this have made the very obvious point, how could she have not known his connection to Viereck and the Nazis? In that demand for the papers, there is what could be read as an acknowledgement of guilt.
Maddow: Despite her efforts to hide her husband's relationship with Viereck, her removing the documentary evidence from her husband’s office right after his death. Despite Norma's best efforts, the secret was getting out in the press and, soon, in court.
The previous 12 months had shown that the federal government, time and again, was behind the eight ball when it came to this gathering threat at home from the ultra-right — the plotting and planning of extremists in this country who were inclined towards violence and, in many cases, hooked up with the Hitler government.
The Justice Department had failed to convict the members of the Christian Front who tried to overthrow the government. They had failed to act on advance warning of explosions at American munitions plants, planned as sabotage. Private activist groups operating outside law enforcement were tracing stolen U.S. military weapons and complex, violent plots involving homegrown violent fascists with help and financing from Berlin. Amateurs were turning this stuff up, not the authorities.
To make up for lost time, to get out from behind the eight ball, the Attorney General finally decided to appoint a special prosecutor, someone to start paying attention to these kinds of threats to our democracy. The prosecutor who was appointed was named William Power Maloney.
William Maloney was an experienced federal prosecutor. He’d spent years at the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York handling high-profile federal cases of fraud and corruption. William Maloney had managed to run up an eye-popping, 400-to-nothing record as a prosecutor there. He’d never lost a case.
And as soon as he was assigned to this new job by the Attorney General, Maloney began putting the pieces together, starting with Ernest Lundeen and George Sylvester Viereck and what sure seemed to be an improper relationship there. Lundeen might be dead, but George Sylvester Viereck was still out there. And so, newly appointed by the Attorney General, William Power Maloney decided to move quickly.
He executed a court-ordered search warrant on an apartment belonging to a D.C. publicist, a guy who they believed to be Viereck's employee in Washington. As far as prosecutors could tell, this D.C. publicist, and Senator Ernest Lundeen, and Viereck the Nazi agent, they’d all been involved together in a scheme to secretly disseminate pro-Nazi disinformation and propaganda. The German agent would provide speeches to Senator Lundeen, Lundeen would then deliver on the Senate floor, they’d get tons of copies made, then the publicist would run logistics on getting those copies mailed out to the public.
So when federal agents raided the publicist's apartment that day, what they expected to find was a bunch of stuff involving Ernest Lundeen. They expected to find evidence of that scheme that they knew about: notes, documents, records of payments, other evidence linking this Nazi agent to Senator Lundeen. That's what they were expecting. But what prosecutor William Power Maloney actually found during that raid, it set him back on his heels.
Because apparently it wasn't just this one Senator, this one recently-deceased Senator Ernest Lundeen who had been involved. Looking around the publicist's apartment that day in Washington, William Power Maloney took in the sight of hundreds of documents and envelopes bearing the names of all sorts of members of Congress: Republican Congressman Stephen Day of Illinois, Democratic Congressman Martin L. Sweeney of Ohio, Democratic Senator David Worth Clark of Idaho, Republican Congressman George Tinkham of Massachusetts, Republican Congressman Jacob Thorkelson of Montana, Republican Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota,
it just went on and on.
Envelopes bearing the names of Senators Rush Holt and Senator Burton Wheeler and Congressman Clare Hoffman, and all sorts of others. They were all being held in that D.C. apartment raided by William Maloney that day.
All these sitting members of Congress. From both parties. All of them, Maloney now realized, apparent participants in this operation funded and run by the Hitler government to disseminate Nazi propaganda to the American people. How many members of Congress were in on this thing? How far did it go?
With the help of his pal, Senator Ernest Lundeen, George Sylvester Viereck had roped in dozens of sitting members of Congress to help him launder and disseminate Nazi propaganda using the resourcces of the United States congress.
Hart: We have a number of the biggest figures in American politics in this period, men who are truly household names, the biggest names really in Republican congressional politics, they all fall under the spell of this Nazi propaganda operation.
Maddow: This turbocharged Vierck’s operation. It helped him transform his scheme from a two-man band into a kind of assembly-line of Nazi propaganda being pumped out of the U.S. Captiol and into the mailboxes of unsuspecting Americans from coast-to-coast.
Hart: What Viereck does is he combines this incredible power of essentially unlimited copies of the congressional record printed at government expense, envelopes that are pre-franked, could be mailed a government expense. And so the American taxpayer in this period is paying for well-meaning Americans to receive Nazi propaganda that’s produced by George Sylvester Viereck and his allies, and being mailed through the U.S. Postal Service at essentially their own cost. It's really a scheme of genius in some ways, I think we would say evil genius. But it's almost something from a James Bond film.
Maddow: The scale of this operation, it kind of takes your breath away.
Kelsey Desiderio: How many Americans were actually receiving Nazi propaganda in their mailboxes as a result of this scheme?
Hart: We believe it's millions of Americans. Millions of Americans receive pro-Nazi, anti-interventionist content in this period.
Maddow: Millions of Americans. The members of Congress who were working with this Nazi agent, they were members of both the Senate and the House. They represented a bunch of different states, up and down the political spectrum. They were mostly Republicans, but also some Democrats. But besides their connection to this German foreign agent, they did all have one other thing in common.
(CROWD CHEERING AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN)
All of those members of Congress tied up in Viereck’s scheme, all of them were associated with something called the America First movement.
Radio Announcer: You’re about to hear an address delivered before a meeting of the America First Committee in Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Maddow: The America First Committee started up in 1940 as a pressure group, to try to stop the United States from getting involved in the Second World War. “America First.” That tight-little, patriotic-sounding populist slogan was both a don't-get-involved-in-the-war rallying cry, and a good, profile-boosting vehicle for members of congress who — for whatever reason — were opposed to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was just an electoral juggernaut at the time. In 1940, FDR was running for an unprecedented third term as US president.
Hart: America First becomes a grab bag of everything, anti-Roosevelt. Many of the members of Congress who have been involved with the Viereck scandal and tend towards the anti-interventionist, anti-Roosevelt side of the aisle find themselves as prominent figures in America First.
Young: Republicans are just feeling very defeated as if there’s nothing that they can do to stop Roosevelt. And I think that for some, playing footsie with fascists was a good idea, they thought.
Maddow: This idea that there was American unanimity against the Nazis, this sort of wishful historical nostalgia we have for an era in which Amerians were supposedly all on the same page about the need to fight Hitler, for the need to pull together to meet this grave global challenge, that is a tidier, happier memory than what is justified by the real history.
In reality, a number of the most high-profile America First members of Congress were in cahoots with a paid agent of the Hitler government who was supplying them with propaganda intended not just to keep the U.S. out of World War II, but also to divide Americans along political lines, racial lines, religious lines, class lines, all in the interest of “national demoralization." George Viereck and the Nazi government were using the America First movement and America First members of Congress for those ends.
Young: This group of people, if they were anything first, it was their own political success and careers first. If they could advance their career by playing footsie with Nazis, and if that meant winnowing away the strength of American democracy, then so be it.
Maddow: In the year following the death of Senator Ernest Lundeen, newspaper and radio journalists began to figure out what exactly Lundeen had been up to with this German agent, George Viereck. Despite the loud protests of the senator’s widow, Norma Lundeen, on the radio — her threats to sue reporters into submission, her attempts to gaslight the American people that her husband wasn’t really standing in front of the swastika — despite all of that, the details of her husband’s relationship with this Nazi agent, those details began to get out.
But the other members of Congress, that band of America Firsters who were all in on it, too, they were still flying under the radar. No one in the public knew that they too had been aiding and abetting this paid agent of Hitler’s government. Not yet.
Justice Department Prosecutor William Power Maloney had identified the threat. He had begun to identify those who had been involved in the scheme. Thanks to that raid on that D.C. apartment, he now had names and literal receipts of the other members of Congress who had been involved. Armed with that information, William Maloney took action.
Radio Reporter: George Sylvester Viereck, well-known publicist, has been indicted by a grand jury which pictures him as using congressional franks to send-out his material. Special Prosecutor William Power Maloney spoke of Viereck as one of the most serious menaces to this country.
Maddow: William Power Maloney arrested and indicted George Sylvester Viereck. He was criminally charged for his role in the scheme that he ran through Congress, which was a shot across the bow to all the members of Congress who had helped Viereck carry out the scheme. It immediately led them to start wondering: Were they next?
Hart: Many of these men begin sort of searching their own files, trying to find out what their legal exposure might be.
Maddow: Once George Viereck was arrested, the members of Congress who had participated in this scheme, they knew that prosecutors were onto them. They knew that William Power Maloney was very likely hot on their trail. So at that point, they had two options: fess up, give up the game, cooperate with the investigation; or, try to burn the whole thing down. They ultimately chose option two.
Radio Reporter: Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana, a leader of the America First Committee, has threatened to demand a Congressional investigation of the way the Justice Department has been handling the prosecution of Nazi sympathizers.
Hart: This is a moment of great political danger, I think for these men.
Young: Wheeler used his position as a sitting member of the United States Senate to lobby the Justice Department to fire Maloney.
Maddow: And that is next time.
“Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra” is a production of MSNBC and NBC News.
This episode was written by myself, Mike Yarvitz, and Kelsey Desiderio. The series is Executive Produced by myself and Mike Yarvitz, and it's produced by Kelsey Desiderio. Our Associate Producer is Janmaris Perez. Archival support from Holly Klopchin. Sound design by Tarek Fouda. Our Technical Director is Bryson Barnes. Our Senior Executive Producers are Cory Gnazzo and Laura Conaway. Our Web Producer is Will Femia. Madeleine Haeringer is our Head of Editorial. Archival radio material is from NBC Newsvia the Library of Congress, which you really should visit. Have you visited? With additional sound from CBS News.
A special thanks to historian Bradley Hart. His excellent, excellent book is called “Hitler's American Friends: The Third Reich's Supporters in the United States.” Highest recommendation, 12 stars out of ten!
You can find much more about this series — you can see what we mean about Norma Lundeen's hat problem and that "just a bad angle" photo of her husband — all at our website: MSNBC.com/ultra
Library of Congress Engineer: Cut B-4 sounds like a dynamite record. Disc 20612 Side A from Box T41-26. May 18, 1941, 11:30 to 11:45pm, the NBC Blue Network. Mrs. Ernest Lundeen speaks and apparently she's speaking in reply to certain statements about her husband made by Walter Winchell in his broadcast. This promises to be good.