Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
July 12, 1962, Vol. VII, No. 38
High Cost of Blacklisting
By Stephanie Gervis
If CBS really doubted John Henry Faulk’s audience appeal, it should have covered his libel suit against AWARE, Inc., Laurence Johnson, and Vincent Hartnett more closely. For 11 weeks there was standing room only.
And even that was nothing compared to the reaction after the verdict was in, awarding the former CBS radio raconteur $3.5 million in damages against the men who had put him on the broadcasting blacklist and out of show business by linking his name with alleged Communist front activities. Once the news was out, the Algonquin Hotel, where Faulk was staying, took on the air of election headquarters for a successful candidate. It was as though everyone who walked into the wood-paneled lobby was there to pay tribute to the victor.
The fixed gaze of Louis Nizer, Faulk’s attorney, stared down from the walls where ads for his best-selling book, “My Life in Court,” were plastered like campaign posters. Television cameramen were everywhere. Only CBS was missing — perhaps because its president, Frank Stanton, was still in doubt about his former employee’s audience ratings, or maybe because CBS was somewhat embarrassed at having knuckled under to Faulk’s detractors when the heat was on.
Faulk is now a public property. The spectators who crowded Room 152 of the Supreme Court Building day after day, the others who made the pilgrimage to the Algonquin, all seemed to have a proprietary feeling about him — a feeling that was not just fighting for an unmanageable sum of money to compensate for his lost income, but that he was fighting for a principle that mattered to all of them, even to Vincent Hartnett, whether he realized it or not.
“Badly as I need the money,” Faulk reflected over a beer at the Algonquin’s after-glow, “the thing that makes the case such an overwhelming experience for me is that the size of this verdict lays such a death blow to character assassination and innuendo — it affects all phases of American life, wherever people are harried.”
But for six years it was just Faulk and his wife and three children who paid the price for defying the self-appointed, incorporated defenders of the American way of life. The price was Faulk’s broadcasting job, his $36,000 yearly income, his freedom to pursue the career of his choice, and his good name…
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