Media Cover Up: The Plotters Deny Everything
(excerpts from The Plot to Seize the White House)

By Jules Archer

Asked about these denials, [General] Butler snorted to a New York Times reporter, "Hell, you're not surprised they deny it, are you? What they have to say they'll say before the committee." He wanted them under oath, as he had been.

A little desperately [Gerald] MacGuire suggested that "General Butler must be seeking publicity," and called the general's testimony "a pacifist stunt." His attorney, Norman L. Marks, called it "a joke and a publicity stunt for General Butler."

"It's a joke-a publicity stunt," Jerry MacGuire was quoted as insisting. "I know nothing about it. The matter is made up out of whole cloth. I deny the story completely."

General Johnson growled, "He had better be pretty damn careful. Nobody said a word to me about anything of this kind, and if they did I'd throw them out the window. I know nothing about it."

Thomas W. Lamont, partner in J. P. Morgan and Company, gave his comment: "Perfect moonshine! Too unutterably ridiculous to comment upon!" J. P. Morgan himself, just back from Europe, had nothing to say.

"A fantasy!" scoffed Colonel Grayson M.-P. Murphy. "I can't imagine how anyone could produce it or any sane person believe it. It is absolutely false so far as it relates to me and my firm, and I don't believe there is a word of truth in it with respect to Mr. MacGuire."

Colonel Murphy specifically denied to reporters that he had financed any Fascist plot and called the statement that he had made out a check for General Butler's Chicago expenses "an absolute lie." He declared that he did not know General Butler and had never heard of the reputed Fascist movement until the charges had been published. He insisted that in 1932 he had voted for President Roosevelt, the target of the alleged plot.

In Washington General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff, was unavailable for comment because of a real or a diplomatic "heavy cold." His aides, however, expressed amazement and amusement that MacArthur had been named by Butler as an alternate choice of the plotters for dictator if Butler persisted in refusing the offer.

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., decried as "ridiculous" the idea that he could be used to wrest the powers of the Presidency away from his fourth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

[Robert] Clark declared himself bewildered by the mention of his name and said he would send the lawyer "if the whole affair isn't relegated to the funny papers by Sunday."

"MacGuire went to Europe for me, but his visit had nothing to do with politics," he insisted. "He visited France, Italy and Germany and was in Paris in February of this year. He spent four months on the Continent. His trip was made for the purposes of investigating the financial situation, the possibilities of monetary stabilization and commercial trends."

When reporters showed him [James] Van Zandt's accusation that MacGuire had returned to the United States with copious data for setting up an American Fascist regime, he exclaimed, "My God, what is back of all this? I saw all of MacGuire's reports. I cannot imagine him doing anything else on the side."

The Associated Press reported from Indianapolis that banker Frank N. Belgrano, Jr., national commander of the [American] Legion, had denied that the Legion was involved "in the slightest degree" in any plot to supply an army for a "march on Washington." Highly placed Legion officials in Washington also characterized as "horsefeathers" a rumor that a group of "big-business men" had promised the Legion payment of adjusted service certificates, in return for a pledge to support the Fascist movement.

Louis Johnson, former Legion national commander, declared in Fairmont, West Virginia, that he could not recall having written the letter to Jerry MacGuire, promising to see him about the Fascist army plan, that MacGuire had shown briefly to Paul Comly French. If he had written such a letter, Johnson insisted, it would show that he and the Legion were unalterably opposed to any dictatorship.

On November 22 the Associated Press struck a low blow at Butler by getting Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, of New York, to express an opinion of the conspiracy based on what he had read about it in the press. The AP ran this "news item" under the headline "COCKTAIL PUTSCH, MAYOR SAYS:

"Mayor LaGuardia of New York laughingly described today the charges of General Smedley D. Butler that New York brokers suggested he lead an army of 500,000 exservice men on Washington as 'a cocktail putsch.' The Mayor indicated he believed that some one at a party had suggested the idea to the ex-marine as a joke."

"Investor Clark, in Paris, freely admitted trying to get General Butler to use his influence with the Legion against dollar devaluation, but stoutly maintained: "I am neither a Fascist nor a Communist, but an American." He threatened a libel suit "unless the whole affair is relegated to the funny sheets by Sunday."

"It sounds like the best laugh story of the year," chimed in General MacArthur from Washington..

Though most of the country was again laughing at the latest Butler story, the special House Committee declined to join in the merriment."
"Plot Without Plotters," Time, Dec 3, 1934

For those of its readers who might have found Time's satirical attack too subtle, the magazine helped them get the message by its choice of photos to accompany the story. An unflattering photo of Butler in civilian clothes, with his finger reflectively in one ear, was labeled, "He was deaf to a dictatorship." The pose subtly suggested that the general, as the copy broadly hinted, was a bit daft.

In contrast, a jovial, laughing picture of that good-natured, genial humanitarian, J. P. Morgan, looking like everybody's grandfather, was labeled, "Moonshine provided the amusement." And a stern, handsome picture of Colonel Grayson M.-P. Murphy, dressed in a trim World War I colonel's uniform, hand dashingly on hip, was captioned with this quote: "'A fantasy!"'

Reading the press treatment of the scanty disclosures that had leaked out of the closed hearing, Butler was not surprised by the attempts to minimize and ridicule his exposure of the conspiracy. He had expected to be pilloried for his audacity in Pinning a traitors' label on powerful American interests. He hoped, however that the press would eventually be compelled to print the whole story of the plot as it had unfolded to him, when he testified at a public hearing along with French's corroboration.

Source: Jules Archer, The Plot to Seize the White House, 1973.