William Randolph Hearst

According to journalist George Seldes:

"Hitler had the support of the most widely circulated magazine in history, Readers Digest, as well as nineteen big-city newspapers and one of the three great American news agencies, the $220-million Hearst press empire.

Hearst…was the lord of all the press lords in the United States. The millions who read the Hearst newspapers and magazines and saw Hearst newsreels in the nation's moviehouses had their minds poisoned by Hitler propaganda."

Seldes recounts that the American Ambassador to Germany, William E. Dodd, told him that

"[When] Hearst came to take the waters at Bad Nauheim [Germany] in September 1934…Hitler sent two of his most trusted Nazi propagandists…to ask Hearst how Nazism could present a better image in the U.S. When Hearst went to Berlin later in the month, he was taken to see Hitler."

Seldes reports that a $400,000 a year deal was struck between Hearst and Hitler, and signed by Doctor Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister. "Hearst," continues Seldes, "completely changed the editorial policy of his nineteen daily newspapers the same month he got the money."

In court documents filed on behalf of Dan Gillmor, publisher of a magazine Friday, in response to a lawsuit by Hearst, he states:

"Promptly after this visit with Adolf Hitler and the making of said arrangements... plaintiff, William Randolph Hearst, instructed all Hearst press correspondents in Germany, including those of INS (Hearst's International News Service) to report happenings in Germany only in a friendly manner. All of correspondents reporting happenings in Germany accurately and without friendliness, sympathy and bias for the actions of the German government, were transferred elsewhere, discharged, or forced to resign."

In the late 1930s, Seldes recounts, when "several sedition indictments [were brought by] the Department of Justice...against a score or two of Americans, the defendants included an unusually large minority of newspaper men and women, most of them Hearst employees."

Source: Randy Davis, "Nazis in the Attic"


William Randolph Hearst is known as one of the largest media moguls of all time. During the 1930s, he worked with the Nazi party to help promote a positive image of the Nazi party in American media. He also received loans from Italian fascist bankers during this time. The actions of Hearst were an important element in shaping American sentiment about not getting involved in the political situation in Europe as many Americans were lead to believe that there was nothing terribly wrong going on in Europe, and even after the war started some Americans continued to support the Nazi regime based on the propaganda that they had been exposed to through Hearst media sources.

Source: "This War Is About So Much More."


In 1935, John Spivak described Hearst's:

"current efforts to scare up the 'Red' bogey as one of the first steps in preparing the country for Fascism. Hearst, with his chain of newspapers reaches millions of readers. Just before he started his anti-Red drive he returned from a visit to Germany where he had conferred with Hitler and other Nazi leaders. Shortly after his arrival home he stated in a front page editorial that this country need not fear Fascism, that Fascism can come only when a country is menaced by Communism."

Source: John Spivak, New Masses, Feb. 5, 1935



Film: "Gabriel over the White House"
By Jeff Stafford

When William Randolph Hearst read Rinehard, a novel by British author Thomas Tweed, he knew he had found the perfect vehicle to express his views on the state of the nation. Filmed while Herbert Hoover was president, just before Roosevelt took office, "Gabriel Over the White House" was a collaboration between producer Walter Wanger and Hearst's Cosmopolitan Studios, whose films were distributed by MGM.

Imagine this scenario if you can: The U.S. President [Judson Hammond, played by Walter Huston] is involved in a serious car accident and, while recovering, receives a visit from the Archangel Gabriel. Forced to acknowledge the desperate state of the country due to his poor leadership, the President vows to set the nation right, fires the crooked cabinet members who got him elected and transforms himself into an all-powerful dictator who wages war against organized crime, to restore social order in America. What sounds like a right-wing paranoid fantasy is the plot of this political allegory. It was one of the first films to openly address the problems of the Great Depression such as unemployment, homelessness and the rising crime rate.

[As a million angry out-of-work protestors converge on Washington, the president convenes a cabinet meeting. The secretary who calls for using the army to crush the protest is asked for his resignation]. Hammond is the total autocrat: he storms into the House of Representatives and declares a state of national emergency, convincing lawmakers to grant him absolute power. He smashes through bureaucratic roadblocks, guns down gangsters without a trial and bullies the world into meeting his demands. By the end, he has solved the unemployment problem and enforced a worldwide disarmament but dies a martyr for his efforts. It's easy to see the appeal President Hammond had for an all-powerful newspaper tycoon like Hearst.

The film turned out to be one of the biggest box office hits of 1933. The reviewer for The Nation said

"Gabriel Over the White House is probably the most important bad film of the year. It is important because it marks the first attempt by Hollywood producers to exploit the current popular interest in social and economic ideas.… Its all-too-evident purpose is to convert innocent American movie audiences to a policy of fascist dictatorship in this country."

He also added that it "has about as much reality as a diagram on a blackboard."

Louis B. Mayer, on the other hand, was a staunch Republican and was appalled by "Gabriel Over the White House." "Put that picture in its can. Take it back and lock it up!" was the directive he reportedly after screening it for the first time. Mayer considered it an attack on President Hoover and demanded extensive retakes on the film before he would release it; the theory being that Hoover would be out of the White House by the time Mayer allowed the film to open theatrically.

Source: Turner Classic Movies


"Gabriel Over the White House" is really almost a dramatized political campaign speech. It's a fantasy of a desire for ruthlessly decisive action to solve these sweeping problems. When the film takes on U.S. foreign relations it gains a spectacular tackiness, seeming to embody all the most obnoxious attitudes of U.S. imperialist bombast. The U.S. builds up a massive Navy and threatens war to scare other nations into paying outstanding war debts. "The U.S. must have the greatest Navy in the world because we want world peace," says the President. (Clearly U.S. financial needs are equal to world peace). What is alarming about this is that in the film, Germany is dismissed as being no more than a cowardly bad debtor. In actuality, Germany ended up being financially crippled into massive inflation by war debts (all of which set the conditions that allowed Adolf Hitler to rise to power).

Source: Richard Scheib, The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review, 2001.