Publication information

Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Skinning a Skunk”
Author(s): Cowley-Brown, John Stapleton
Date of publication: 1 November 1901
Volume number: 1
Issue number: 1
Series: new series
Pagination: 15-16

Cowley-Brown, John Stapleton. “Skinning a Skunk.” Goose-Quill 1 Nov. 1901 v1n1 (new series): pp. 15-16.
full text
William Randolph Hearst; Hearst newspapers; Grove L. Johnson (public statements).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; William Randolph Hearst; Collis P. Huntington; Grove L. Johnson; William McKinley.

Skinning a Skunk

     The reason why Hearst’s Chicago American is a constant hell-broth of vituperation and lies spewed out all over the land is because that loathsome sewer sheet is owned and directed by William Randolph Hearst, to whose greed for dirty dollars is due the fact that to-day there is a grave at Canton, a widow whose grief is shared by the world, and the flag of our country is floating at half mast from the Pacific to the Atlantic, on every American ship. What sort of reptile is this W. R. Hearst? Well, I would skin the skunk for you myself were it not that a United States Congressman has anticipated me. For on January 8th, 1897, the Hon. Grove L. Johnson, member of Congress from the Second District of California, standing on the floor of Congress, with all the world listening, piled up charges against the yellow editor such as no man with red blood in his veins would rest under for an hour. The Californian Congressman said in part:

     Hearst is a young man, rich, not by his own exertions, but by inheritance from his honored father and gifts from his honored mother. By the reckless expenditure of money he has built up a great paper. The Examiner has a large circulation. It did have a great influence in California. At first we Californians were suspicious of “Our Willie,” as Hearst is called on the Pacific Coast. We did not know what he meant. But we came to believe in him and his oft repeated boasts of independence and honesty. Daily editorials written by “Our Willie’s” hired men, praising his motives and proclaiming his honesty had their effect. Besides, “Our Willie,” through his paper, was doing some good. We knew him as a debaucher, a dude in dress, an Anglo-maniac, but we thought he was honest. We knew he was licentious in his tastes, regal in his dissipations, unfit to associate with pure women or decent men, but we thought he was honest. We knew he was erotic in his tastes, erratic in his moods, of small understanding and smaller views of men and measures, but we thought “Our Willie” in his English plaids, his cockney accent and his hair parted in the middle, was honest. We knew he had sought on the banks of the Nile relief from loathsome disease contracted in the haunts of vice, and had sought to rival the Khedive in the gorgeousness of his harem in the joy of restored health; but we still believed him honest, though low and depraved. We knew he was debarred from society in San Francisco because of his delight in flaunting his vileness, but we believed him honest though tattooed with sin. We knew he [15][16] was ungrateful to his friends, unkind to his employees, unfaithful to his business associates, but we believed he was trying to publish an honest paper. We knew he had money, not earned by himself (for we knew he was unable to earn any money save as a statue at a cigarette counter), but given to him by honored and indulgent parents; we knew he needed no bricks with which to pay his way, but while we knew all these things we still believed “Our Willie” to be honest.  *  *  *  When William R. Hearst commenced his abusive tirades against C. P. Huntington and the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and the Central Pacific Railroad Company, and to denounce the Funding Bill and all who favored it as thieves and robbers, we thought his course wrong, his methods bad and his attacks brutal, but we believed “Our Willie” honest in it all. When C. P. Huntington told the truth about “Our Willie” and showed that he was simply fighting the railroad bill because he could get no more blackmail from the Southern Pacific, we were dazed with the charge, and, as Californians, we were humiliated. We looked eagerly for “Our Willie’s” denial, but it came not. Cornered, he admitted that he had blackmailed the Southern Pacific Company into a contract whereby they were to pay him $30,000 to let them alone, and that he had received $22,000 of his blackmail, and that C. P. Huntington had cut it off as soon as he knew of it, and that he was “getting even” now on Huntington and the Railroad Company because he had not received the other $8,000 of his bribe. He admitted by his silence that the Southern Pacific Company was financially responsible, but that he dared not sue it for the $8,000 that he claimed to be due for fear that his blackmail would be exposed in court. With brazen effrontery only equaled by the lowest denizen of the haunts of vice he unblushingly admitted he had blackmailed the railroad company, but pleaded in extenuation that he did not keep his contract, but swindled them out of their money.  *  *  *  To learn “Our Willie” was a common, ordinary, everyday blackmailer—a low highwayman of the newspaper world—grieved the people of California, myself included.

     This in short is the man the presses of whose journalistic sore on the night of the assassination of William McKinley would have been smashed to pieces had his guilty conscience not warned him to surround his lutescent premises with police officers with their trigger-fingers ready for business. For, like all anarchists Hearst is the first when in trouble to invoke the protection of the law he affects to despise. But his bolt is about shot. Chicagoans have found him out. His crocodile tears are appreciated at their true value. In fact they have done him infinitely more harm than good. Chicagoans know that in all its slimy career the Chicago-American has never equalled the utter mendacity and hypocrisy of its editorials bewailing Czolgosz’s foul deed.