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It was during the 2016 presidential campaign that I first heard of and read articles by Salena Zito, one of America’s great journalists.

Although not fully on board with candidate Donald Trump, Salena Zito nonetheless wrote honest and impartial stories about his supporters when travelling through Ohio and Pennsylvania. She is originally from Pittsburgh.

Recently, Henry Olsen posted an excellent article on American Greatness, ‘Take Salena Zito Seriously and Literally’. When all the polls and all the pundits said that Trump couldn’t win, Zito was the contrarian.

Olsen’s article is in a response to a Huffington Post hit piece, ‘Take Salena Zito Neither Seriously Nor Literally on Trump Voters’. The Left are vilifying her for speaking the truth. From HuffPost:

The critiques amount to a wholesale demolition of the Zito method. Her shtick — which, as she has told us time and again, is absolutely not a shtick — consists of driving to blue-collar Rust Belt towns and letting regular folks tell her in their own words why they support Donald Trump. Thus does she fashion herself as the antithesis of the fake-news coastal elite.

Much of her gimmick rests on the idea that her interlocutors are apostate populist Democrats who swung to the Republican Party. This is the story many conservatives prefer to tell about Trump — that he is a populist phenomenon, not the product of regular country-clubs-and-chambers-of-commerce Republicanism. Certainly these left-to-right populists exist in America, but Zito has a knack for finding the ones who, apparently unbeknownst to her, have become Republican Party officials. This is why the criticisms of her are so damning. Zito is supposed to be the one telling you how it actually is. 

There are two lines of attack on her journalism. The first is the straightforward accusation that she makes stuff up. A number of people have pointed to her always on-the-nose quotations.

This is basically unprovable without access to the recordings that Zito insists she always makes.

The article shows that leftist attacks carried over to Twitter.

After that, Zito responded with an article, ‘The Twitter trolls attacking my work are all wrong’, which begins with this (emphases mine):

“Dad, it’s not true,” I said, fighting to keep my voice steady through tears.

My 81-year-old father had just seen a Huffington Post headline — “Take Salena Zito Neither Seriously Nor Literally On Trump Voters” — with a picture of me next to it. The piece accused me of fabricating stories and omitting facts. None of that is true, but that didn’t stop the attack from ricocheting to every corner of political journalism’s Twitter-sphere.

It began days earlier with a story I wrote for The New York Post about President Trump’s followers continuing to support him after Michael Cohen’s guilty plea and Paul Manafort’s conviction. Facebook took that story down from my Facebook page, and others who re-posted it soon found it removed from their pages as well. With the story marked as “spam,” or not meeting “community standards,” I tweeted, then wrote about the experience.

That’s when things got worse. Within hours, an anonymous troll with an account created only a few days earlier went on the attack. The thread tossed false accusations that I withheld information from the book I co-authored this year. The troll and his followers alleged that some Trump supporters who struggled with their decision in the 2016 election and were profiled in the book are actually elected Republican officials who (in the trolls’ opinion) could not possibly have struggled with that decision.

First, that wasn’t true. Half the thesis of the book I co-wrote with Brad Todd, “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics,” is that Trump’s polarizing style causes many Republicans to fit uneasily, if at all, into his coalition. Many people in the book were profiled explicitly because they are Republicans, not in spite of it.

Within minutes, the initial Twitter attack was retweeted by other anonymous trolls and online bullies who have attacked my writing before — some continuously since I first reported in the summer of 2016 that this political shift was happening. They demanded that the publications for which I write, including The Post, the Washington Examiner and Crown Publishing, address their allegations or fire me.

That is madness.

Now onto Henry Olson’s article for American Greatness, which tells us:

Zito’s reporting chops aren’t what’s really at issue. What’s really at stake is her narrative, that Trump’s victory was due to millions of fed-up, blue-collar Americans angry at coastal elite condescension and the failed policies that flowed from that conceit. Strike her down, and the most prominent advocate of that explanation for 2016 gets removed from the conversation—and with her, perhaps the narrative itself drops by the wayside.

See, NeverTrump resisters—Left and Right—still don’t want to admit this is why he won. They would prefer to chalk it up to Russian hacking or to misinformation, the political nerd’s version of Area 51 and Roswell. Or they contend it’s all a matter of latent racism, which somehow never expressed itself when Barack Obama twice won in these same areas or when two Hispanics and a black man won majorities of the votes in early GOP primaries and caucuses. Anything—anything—but that Americans who have different cultural interests than coastal or suburban college graduates were mad as hell and didn’t want to take it anymore.

Olson then goes into an examination of voter polls from 2016, which you can read.

Olson tells us when Zito first contacted him:

Zito saw all of this as she traveled throughout the Midwest. She called me in the summer of 2016 for data on a piece she was writing, the first time we came into contact. Her anecdotes and reporting confirmed what my data were telling me: Trump was riding an enormous tidal wave of support among blue-collar whites. I saw it firsthand when I drove the backroads of Pennsylvania in October for speaking gigs: hundreds of Trump signs, many obviously not made by the campaign, decorated lawns across the land, more than I had ever seen in over 40 years in politics.

Since then, she has made many media appearances. Imagine how that’s destroying the received media narrative:

Salena’s books, CNN appearances, and columns give voice to these people. Her interviews and stories put faces and names on real concerns. This means she reaches many more people than do analysts and writers like me, focused as we are on numbers and data. That makes her dangerous, someone who must be brought down. That is why Twitter trolls are poring over her work to find any error, no matter how slight, to discredit her.

Zito will survive this onslaught. She’s too careful, too competent not to …

How sad for her.

Haven’t her opponents ever heard the old saying ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’?

Happening around this time was the revelation that the priest from her childhood was among 99 named as child molesters in a grand jury report:

Excerpts follow from Zito’s article for the Washington Examiner.

In it, she captures many of my memories of a Catholic childhood back in the 1960s:

I adored Fr. John Maloney, a young priest who came to our church when I was five years old, and going to church at five meant different things than it does to an adult. For me it was the honor of wearing a lace covering over my head the way the grown-up women did. (Before Vatican II, it was mandatory for females.)

But it also meant the mysterious rhythms of the Latin Mass that seemed to be telling sacred secrets. Mass meant being with my parents, sometimes my entire extended family of aunts and uncles and grandparents — all warm, comfortable, safe feelings that helped draw me in to what faith would mean for me as an adult.

Children then really looked up to priests as true representatives of the Lord:

We were taught to respect and revere his station, it wasn’t hard, he was young, handsome, and charismatic. When he talked about the Scripture or Jesus he made you feel as though he knew Jesus personally and he was simply sharing the stories that his close friend wanted you to know.

All decent Catholics remember their First Holy Communion:

It was he who administered my first two sacraments outside of my baptism: He heard my first confession, (I do not remember what sins I committed, but I do remember it did not require me to be sent to the principal’s office) and my first Holy Communion, which for a young Catholic child is a monumental moment.

When Fr. Maloney was transferred to another parish when I was 11, I was sad.

Then, years later, in August 2018:

When Fr. Maloney’s name appeared last week on the list of deviant offenders, I was devastated.

How could someone who had our complete trust abuse it in such a heinous way? How could he have robbed children of their childhood?

The grand-jury report named 99 priests in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Three of them served in my parish when I or one of my siblings attended the school: Fr. Maloney, Fr. Ray Rhoden, and Fr. James Somma.

How can we trust the bishops that allowed this to happen?

Simply, we cannot. All of those responsible must be held accountable.

The actions of those priests and those in charge cannot take our faith away, but they have made it impossible for me to trust this Church.

Too right — and well said. Despite these heinous events:

I will stand by my faitha faith that has guided and shaped me at my core and is difficult to square with the corrupt institution that allowed sick men to steal my classmates’ lives and then facilitated them to do the same elsewhere.

Even then, a question remains:

The only things that are uncertain now is how I find forgiveness.

How true.

I know a fellow Anglican in England whose headmaster, an Anglican priest, was found guilty at an advanced age of molesting his pupils when my friend attended his prep school decades ago. He expressed the same sense of shock and betrayal as Salena Zito, since a faith school and church provided — or was supposed to provide — a safe, happy environment.

But I digress.

Happily, Salena Zito was blessed with a grandson last week:

God provides what we need, when we need it. Best wishes to Ms Zito in her role as a new grandmother!

May God also bless mother and baby.


My apologies for not posting Forbidden Bible Verses today.

I intend to schedule it for tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I had something to do this afternoon which took much longer than expected and had to be done within a particular deadline. It’s finished now and I can truly agree, once again, that there is a wideness in God’s mercy.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy is a hymn that Dr Frederick William Faber, a clergyman with a Doctor of Divinity degree, wrote in 1862 to the melody of WELLESLEY (Tourjee).

Since then, Dr Faber’s lyrics have been adapted to other melodies, such as Corvedale by Maurice Bevan (b. 1921), sung below by the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral, London:

The hymn is widely sung across many denominations and appears in 785 hymnals. has the lyrics to Faber’s hymn:

1 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment given.

2 For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we would gladly trust God’s Word,
and our lives reflect thanksgiving
for the goodness of our Lord.

Faber was part of the Oxford Movement — members of the Church of England who moved to High Church (traditional Roman Catholic-style) liturgy — in the 19th century. The movement later became known as Anglo-Catholicism and exists today.

John Henry Newman was one of the Oxford Movement adherents. He eventually became not only a Roman Catholic but also a Cardinal.

Faber also ‘crossed the Tiber’ and became a Roman Catholic in 1846. tells us that he was the son of a Church of England clergyman, Mr T H Faber, and:

was born at Calverley Vicarage, Yorkshire, June 28, 1814, and educated at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating B.A. in 1836. He was for some time a Fellow of University College, in the same University. Taking Holy Orders in 1837, he became Rector of Elton, Huntingdonshire, in 1843, but in 1846 he seceded to the Church of Rome. After residing for some time at St. Wilfrid’s, Staffordshire, he went to London in 1849, and established the London “Oratorians,” or, “Priests of the Congregation of St. Philip Neri,” in King William Street, Strand. In 1854 the Oratory was removed to Brompton. Dr. Faber died Sept. 26, 1863.

Balliol College is one of the foremost Oxford colleges. It is interesting that Faber served a parish in Huntingdonshire, part of Cambridgeshire, which was known for its Low Church adherence. During Cromwell’s time, two centuries earlier, Cambridgeshire was Calvinistic in belief, the very antithesis of High Church beliefs and worship.

Anyone who knows London will also know that the London Oratory is one of the centres of the capital’s Roman Catholic worship. The Oratory also has a famous boys’ school, which is over-subscribed year on year.

On Sunday, January 7, 2018, Peter Sutherland died at St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

He had been ill since he suffered a heart attack in September 2016. The Irish Times reports:

“He was substantially impacted by this and was in hospitals in London and Dublin since then. Despite great efforts by his medical staff and his own indomitable spirt, he succumbed to an infection,” the family said.

The paper had a thorough obituary, which began with his background:

Peter Sutherland, the former European commissioner, attorney general and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, has died. He was 71.

Mr Sutherland served in a number of senior positions in the worlds of law, business and government during his career. Most recently, he was the United Nations special representative for international migration.

In a long career, he also held the positions of director general of the World Trade Organisation; chairman of the London School of Economics; a member of the UN commission on human security; chairman of the European Institute of Public Administration and chairman of British Petroleum.

Born in Dublin in April 1946, Mr Sutherland was educated at Gonzaga College in Ranelagh before going on to study law at University College Dublin. He worked as a senior counsel for more than a decade before being appointed attorney general in 1981 by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, the first of two spells in the role.

Many of us in the UK will remember him as a globalist, particularly with regard to migration policies. A number of YouTube videos discuss his views. In fact, he was considered to be the ‘father of globalisation’.

He disliked European culture and wanted more immigration from non-European countries.

In 2012, the BBC reported that he disliked Britain’s immigration policy, which was and is quite open, then and now:

He also suggested the UK government’s immigration policy had no basis in international law.

He was being quizzed by the Lords EU home affairs sub-committee which is investigating global migration.

Mr Sutherland, who is non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a former chairman of oil giant BP, heads the Global Forum on Migration and Development , which brings together representatives of 160 nations to share policy ideas.

He told the House of Lords committee migration was a “crucial dynamic for economic growth” in some EU nations “however difficult it may be to explain this to the citizens of those states”.

An ageing or declining native population in countries like Germany or southern EU states was the “key argument and, I hesitate to the use word because people have attacked it, for the development of multicultural states”, he added.

“It’s impossible to consider that the degree of homogeneity which is implied by the other argument can survive because states have to become more open states, in terms of the people who inhabit them. Just as the United Kingdom has demonstrated.”

He also said that European countries were biased against immigrants:

The United States, or Australia and New Zealand, are migrant societies and therefore they accommodate more readily those from other backgrounds than we do ourselves, who still nurse a sense of our homogeneity and difference from others.

And that’s precisely what the European Union, in my view, should be doing its best to undermine.

Never mind the countless millions of immigrants European countries take in every year. He made it sound as if we are insular, which could not be further from the truth.

It turns out he was a devout Catholic. In 2015, he became president of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC).

People like Peter Sutherland don’t have to live with the consequences of their policies. The Irish Times obit says he attended Mass at Brompton Oratory in London, which implies he lived in one of the richest boroughs of the capital — Kensington and Chelsea.

Peter Sutherland did average Europeans a great disservice. That’s putting it politely.

When I lived in the US, I enjoyed watching The McLaughlin Group on PBS.

(Photo credit: The McLaughlin Group on Facebook)

It was a political programme unlike any other: rapid-fire conversation concluding with weekly predictions in soundbites. I watched during the 1980s, when the line up was host Dr John McLaughlin with panellists Morton Kondracke of The New Republic, Jack Germond of The Baltimore Sun and Bob Novak. The show always closed with McLaughlin’s trademark ‘Bye bye’.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was still on the air and that McLaughlin never missed an episode until last weekend, when he was too ill to broadcast. He was 89 years old and, sadly, died on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 of prostate cancer.

Can you imagine hosting a television show, especially one on politics, when you’re 89 years old? I can’t. Americans were blessed to have had John McLaughlin on their television screens for over three decades.

Host versus panellists

I recall episodes of The McLaughlin Group which indicated backstage tension. My mother and I used to discuss the show during our weekend phone calls. She told me I was reading too much into personalities.

However, The New York Times reveals that not all the panellists were happy campers. Bob Novak left the show in 1988 and later hosted his own programme on CNN. During a PBS interview in 2007, the truth came out. Novak said:

He may not be pure evil, but he’s close to it.

Jack Germond, who was rather quiet on occasion although he always added much to the conversation:

called the show “really bad TV,” and said he had stayed on only because he needed the money to pay his daughter’s medical school tuition.

Whatever they say, millions of us loved the show, in large part for McLaughlin’s style of hosting:

Regardless of the panelists’ political persuasions, Mr. McLaughlin, whose own politics leaned decidedly right, would often fire off questions and cut them off, shouting “Wronnnng!”

Then there were the question and answer predictions at the end of each episode. A NYT reader recalls:

he made my favorite prediction on the last 1999 show: “The question of the 21st century will be science vs. religion and the answer is science! Bye-bye!”

Interesting facts

John Joseph McLaughlin was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 29, 1927. He was the son of Eva P. (née Turcotte) and Augustus H. McLaughlin, who was a regional salesman for a furniture company.

McLaughlin attended LaSalle Academy in Providence and went to Weston College, a Jesuit seminary in Massachusetts. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1947.

His further education did not stop there, and the young priest went on to earn masters degrees in philosophy and English literature from Boston College before obtaining a doctorate from Columbia University.

McLaughlin taught at the Jesuit-run Fairfield Preparatory School in Connecticut and later moved to New York to edit the Jesuit magazine America. Then came the 1960s and the Vietnam War.

By the end of the decade, a handful of Jesuit priests raised their heads above the parapet and became involved in politics. Daniel Berrigan was one well known antiwar activist. Robert Drinan was another; he was a US congressman for Massachusetts between 1971 and 1981.

The same year that Drinan first ran for election — 1970 — saw John McLaughlin, SJ, throw his hat into the ring. He ran for US Senate in Rhode Island as the Republican candidate against the long-serving politician, the much-loved Democrat John Pastore. Not surprisingly, he was trounced.

Whereas Robert Drinan’s superiors approved of his run for Congress, McLaughlin’s sharply disapproved of his. It would not be the first time the feisty priest ran into trouble with his superiors, including the Bishop of Rhode Island.

McLaughlin resigned his editorship of America and went to Washington, DC, to become a speechwriter for then-president Richard Nixon. A mutual friend, Republican adviser and pundit Pat Buchanan, introduced the two. McLaughlin became known as ‘Nixon’s priest’.

McLaughlin was fiercely loyal to the then-president. The NYT tells us:

At one news conference, he dismissed Nixon’s use of profanity as “emotional drainage.” Less than two weeks before the president resigned, Father McLaughlin warned in a speech at the National Press Club that the nation would face a “parade of horrors” should Nixon be impeached. (On July 31, 1973, Father Drinan became the first congressman to call for impeachment in a House resolution.)

Whereas Drinan lived in plain quarters with other Jesuits in Georgetown, McLaughlin had his residence at the upmarket Watergate complex.

When Nixon resigned in 1974, Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford abolished McLaughlin’s post. His superiors ordered him to leave Washington DC for Boston for a period of ‘reflection’. He refused and left the Jesuits. In order to leave the order, he had to petition Pope Paul VI for permission, which was granted in 1975.

Shortly after leaving the Jesuits, McLaughlin married his 1970 campaign manager Ann Dore, who later served as secretary of labor under Ronald Reagan. The couple set up their own media relations and public affairs consulting firm. They divorced in 1992.

Five years later, McLaughlin married Cristina Vidal, who was the vice president of operations for his production company, Oliver Productions, named after his treasured basset hound from the Nixon era. The couple divorced in 2010.

Media career

McLaughlin was a man who always had something to say. Fortunately, Washington DC’s WRC radio recognised this and gave him a weekend talk programme to host in the early 1980s.

From there, McLaughlin worked at National Review when William F Buckley Jr was at the helm. McLaughlin was the magazine’s Washington editor and a regular columnist from 1981 to 1989.

His friends from the early 1970s helped him set up a television production company in the 1980s (pre-Oliver) through which he was able to sell a new kind of political talk show to WRC-TV. The NYT explains what a departure this was:

At the time, TV round tables of journalists like “Agronsky & Company” and “Washington Week in Review” dissected the week’s developments in a sober, nonpartisan style. Mr. McLaughlin envisioned a more animated, argumentative format including a panel reflecting conservative, moderate and liberal views, with him as moderator.

I can tell you that Agronsky & Company and Washington Week in Review were incredibly boring. With The McLaughlin Group, it was as if someone had thrown open a window in a stuffy room. Agree or disagree, it engaged the viewer — and continues to do so.

You can see episodes from 1998 to the present on McLaughlin’s personal website. The episodes also have a link to YouTube. I would recommend watching them rather than selecting the MP3 option, if you can. N.B.: McLaughlin did not appear in the August 12, 2016 show.

His other television shows were John McLaughlin’s One on One, broadcast on PBS and NBC between 1984 and 2013, and a daily interview show which ran on CNBC between 1989 and 1994.

However, The McLaughlin Group was his most popular. In 1992, the NYT asked the ex-Jesuit if his programme ‘depreciated’ journalism. McLaughlin strongly disagreed and replied:

Journalists can get very pompous, especially in the formalized days of Meet the Press, when they took themselves so damned seriously. This show demythologizes the press, and I think people like that.

They do. One NYT reader had this to say:

The Irish have a way with words and the gift of the gab. John McLaughlin was very intelligent and highly educated. I think this is the reason his show was so successful and ran for so many years. I do not think there is an equal in quality programming today.

Nor will we see his like again.

May John McLaughlin rest in peace. He did a great service to the United States, engaging millions of Americans in politics via television for over 30 years.

A new channel showing vintage American classics recently launched in Britain.

BonanzaBonanza (Freeview 64) not only shows a lot of episodes of the famous Western, as its name implies, but also an eclectic variety of American television classics from the 1950s and 1960s including The Lone Ranger and the original Dragnet.

Having grown up on the second incarnation, still with Jack Webb as Sgt Joe Friday, but with Harry ‘MASH’ Morgan as Officer Bill Gannon, I was surprised to see old black and white versions.

Yet, it is instructive to find that crime hasn’t changed much since the postwar years and Los Angeles had its fill even then of armed robbery, murder, gang fights and immigrants innocently skirting the periphery of the dark side of the City of Angels.

Chesterfield sponsored the original version of the show and during the commercial breaks Webb would have given a short, scripted spiel. (Photo credit: That is how advertising was done then. A network pitched a show to a well known corporation which then sponsored the programme. The show’s stars then advertised that company’s products at the beginning, middle and end of the programme: often cars, a brand of petrol or home appliances. This type of star-delivered advert disappeared in the early 1960s but was preceded by an announcer in the background solemnly saying:

And now a word from [about] our sponsor …

As you can see, the adverts translated nicely into print. They reminded the reader to watch the show and buy the sponsor’s products.

If I remember rightly, radio is where the star-sponsor advert style began and carried over into television.

Jack Webb himself was the brains behind Dragnet, which began life as a radio show. Although I greatly enjoyed Dragnet‘s run from 1967 through 1970, I began watching the old 1950s black and white episodes with greater concentration.

I notice that in many of the episodes from 1957, Webb’s narration, which ties in with contemporary film from Los Angeles, mentions the Church. The camera shows at least one church, normally in California Mission style, and, on occasion, shows another. Of course, Webb is matter of fact in his presentation, but the camera lingers on them as if to impart a suggestion to the viewer just as he is about to see a true crime story.

It is this mention of churches which made me interested in Webb as a person.

What you are about to read is true. Unlike Dragnet, however, the names have not been changed to protect the innocent.

The Old Time Radio Bulletin features a revealing article from The Milwaukee Sentinel which appeared on September 12, 1954. Maurice Zolotow, the journalist, tells us ‘The True Story of Jack Webb’. Not only did he meet Webb, he also looked for interviews with his mother to get the inside track. Some of Zolotow’s discoveries appear below.


Jack was born on April 2, 1920 in Santa Monica, California, to Margaret ‘Maggie’ Smith, a Catholic of Irish and Native American ancestry, and Samuel Chester Webb, who was Jewish.

The two fell in love just after the First World War. Jack never knew much about his father except that he was, in Zolotow’s words, ‘a wartime hero’. The couple married, his father still in uniform, and Jack was born a year later. In 1921, the Webbs divorced.

Jack never knew his dad. He had fled the scene for good. Mrs Webb never mentioned him and, even as a child, Jack never asked.Yet, he could sense he stood apart from other boys his age; he had no one to teach him the things boys learn — from dads.

Incidentally, I knew a boy in the same situation. As much as he loved his mother, psychologically, things were very difficult for him growing up. School projects and discussions about Father’s Day drove him to tears. (In his country, school is still in session in June.) To this day — he would now be in his early 30s — I do not think he knows his father’s identity.

Mrs Webb returned with Jack to her mother in San Francisco. Grandma Smith lived on a huge estate left her by her late husband who worked for the railroad. There should have been enough money for all three of them for a long time, however, within three years it was gone.

Zolotow says they moved to Los Angeles when Jack was three. Wikipedia specifies that it was the Bunker Hill neighbourhood. (This part of town underwent slum clearance in the 1950s and was transformed into a modern high-rise business district.)

Zolotow describes the Webbs living at Third and Flowers Street, just south of Main. They had a one-bedroom flat with a kitchen. The communal bathroom, shared by 12 tenants, was down the hall. That was no place for a little boy to be.

According to Zolotow, Mrs Webb helped to run the block of flats during the day. At night, she was the cashier in a neighbourhood cafe. Jack knew his mother was too well educated and too much of a lady to be in that situation. He couldn’t fathom what had happened.

In the late 1920s, he and his mother moved from Bunker Hill to Echo Park. Jack attended Our Lady of Loretto School and served as an altar boy.

Zolotow’s article tells us that, previously, Jack dreaded school. He was a sickly child; his slight frame and jug ears made him a target for bullies.

On one occasion, Mrs Webb, working as a shop clerk in Bunker Hill at the time, managed to save enough money to buy him a new shirt and a leatherette pencil case for his seventh birthday. Not long after, on the way home, a bully confronted Jack, grabbed his shirt and, in doing so, pulled off the buttons. The bully’s pals then stepped in to beat up little Jack, alone and defenceless, leaving him wondering if he would survive.

Just then, Zolotow’s article says that Jack felt an adult’s arm and saw a blue sleeve. It was a policeman who sent the bullies packing then got down to the business of putting Jack’s pens, pencils and eraser back into his new, but probably scuffed, pencil case.

Zolotow reasons (emphases mine):

A lot of kids think of a cop as a mortal enemy.  To Jack this cop represented decency and justice.  Maybe he also represented a symbol for the father he was always unconsciously seeking.  Maybe what Webb has done in Dragnet, in paying tribute to the hard-working men of the police force, is his way of saying “thanks” to the cop who befriended a small boy 27 years ago.

After finishing his studies at Our Lady of Loretto, Jack attended nearby Belmont High. Both schools are close to downtown Los Angeles.

At Belmont, he was elected student body president. This was no mean feat as it was the largest high school in the city at that time. His words to the students in the 1938 edition of Campanile, their high school yearbook, read:

… you who showed me the magnificent warmth of friendship which I know, and you know, I will carry with me forever.


Both Our Lady of Loretto and Belmont High gave Jack the opportunity to read and discover the world of imagination. Zolotow says Jack suffered from asthma from the ages of 8 to 17. In all seriousness, I imagine he began smoking later on in high school and the symptoms cleared. I’ve known several asthmatics; some respond well to smoking and others do not.

In any event, during his asthmatic years, as he couldn’t tolerate too much physical activity, Jack began reading library books, especially adventure classics.

But there is something else. Zolotow’s article tells us that Mrs Webb said in a previous interview:

Almost any time I looked out the window, my boy was looking in trash cans.  Always searching for something.  He didn’t know what. 

The armchair psychologist in me says this might have been a subconscious displacement activity in looking for a lost father.

One day, whilst rummaging around, young Jack found a broken crayon. He began drawing on old paper bags. Mrs Webb saved up enough money to buy him crayons and a proper sketch pad. Jack took to drawing and, according to his mother, sketched anything and everything.

Along with art and reading came a love for jazz, nurtured by a neighbour living in the same building. The man was once a professional cornet player; then he fell on hard times, aggravated by alcohol. He played the cornet for Jack and introduced him to Bix Beiderbecke. Jack listened to the records the neighbour played on his Victrola; these gave him a lifelong love of jazz and Beiderbecke’s music. When the neighbour was evicted for rent arrears, he gave Jack a copy of Beiderbecke’s 1930 recording of At the Jazz Band Ball. Jack went on to collect more of Bix’s music and, along the way, also became a fan of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. When Zolotow met him, Webb had managed to collect a copy of every record Beiderbecke had ever made.

Tantalisingly, the other instalments of Zolotow’s article on Webb are lost to history. The next one would have revealed (italics in the original):

how Jack Webb passed up a chance to inherit a prosperous plumbing business, and a scholarship that might have led to a career as an artist, to hang around radio studios and pick up many of the tricks at which he later became a master. 

The start of a career

After graduating from Belmont High, Webb studied art at St John’s University, Collegeville,  Minnesota. Even today, the university continues to follow the Benedictine values modelled after Christ’s life.

When the United States entered the Second World War, Webb enlisted in the US Air Force but ‘washed out’ of flight training. He obtained a hardship discharge as he was the sole provider for his mother and grandmother.

In 1946, Webb got his own eponymous comedy show in San Francisco on ABC’s KGO radio. By the end of the decade, he had switched from comedy to drama via another radio show, this time on KFRC, called Pat Novak for Hire. It was about an unlicensed private detective and co-starred Raymond Burr.

Webb also broke into film in 1948 with a role as a crime lab technician in He Walked by Night, the true story of a California Highway Patrolman who was murdered in 1946. That was the time when film noir with its dissolute criminals and corrupt police was highly popular. He Walked by Night, however, was semi-documentary in style with Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn (LAPD) providing technical assistance.


During filming, Webb considered a series which would profile more real-life crime cases. He talked his ideas over with Wynn. Dragnet premiered on NBC radio in 1949 and ran until 1957.

NBC television picked up a few episodes each season starting in 1952. It seems the television series began in earnest once the radio show ended. The television series ran until 1959.

Dragnet was a near-instant hit as soon as it aired — on television and radio. Webb wanted to portray the police to the public and LAPD superiors as underrated working class heroes. However, if there was wrongdoing or corruption on the part of the police, he would air it. The LAPD at the time was known for not paying decent wages and for dismissing officers who had become ill or injured in the line of duty.

The show was largely produced under the aegis of Webb’s Mark VII production company. Mark VII began in 1951 and operated until Webb’s death in 1982. If you’ve ever watched to the end of a Dragnet episode, the following will be familiar:

The Mark VII production logo depicted a pair of grimy, sweaty hands working on a silver sheet of metal, holding a stamp in place and hitting it twice (and, in later years, once) with a hammer. From 1954 to 1977, a drum roll sounded. When the hands and tools pull away, a “VII” is seen imprinted on the metal. Above the Roman numeral in white is the word “MARK,” and below “LIMITED.” The hands were later revealed to be those of Jack Webb himself. There are several different variations of this logo. describes Webb’s production values as follows:

his Mark VII productions routinely used minimal sets, even more minimal wardrobes (Friday and Gannon seem to wear the same suits over entire seasons, which minimized continuity issues) and maintained a relatively tight-knit stock company that consisted of scale-paid regulars who routinely appeared as irate crime victims, policewomen, miscreants and clueless parents of misguided youth … During the production of Dragnet 1967 (1967), he maintained a rigorous daily work schedule while ignoring his health. He loved chili dogs and cigarettes, enjoyed late nights playing cards and drinking with cast members who were amazed to find him fully alert at 7 a.m. the next day, expecting the same from them. The combined effect of this lifestyle made him appear older than he actually was by the late 60’s.

What doesn’t mention are the tight scripts, the interesting stories, the varied main characters, scenes and witnesses. All these combined — and this was the genius of Jack Webb — make a compelling half-hour crime drama based on real police cases. Actually, less than 30 minutes, once one factors in ad breaks. Wherever it’s shown today, people still tune in. Maybe they’ve seen the series or the episode before. Maybe they haven’t. It’s excellent, timeless television — including the second series which aired from 1967 to 1970 and was still getting good ratings when it ended.

Subsequent series

Webb was ultimately interested in more than Dragnet, which isn’t surprising, given that he had spent the 1940s and 1950s on radio, television and in film at the same time. It seemed, therefore, that Dragnet was part of his life but he didn’t intend for it to define him.

Webb had roles in two minor films in 1959 and 1961. Neither did well at the box office.

In 1963, Warner Brothers Television hired him as Head of Production. One of his duties was to revamp 77 Sunset Strip. Some readers might remember the theme tune. Ratings plummeted and Webb pursued other options.

Interestingly, one of these concerned Jeffrey Hunter, who had played Jesus in the 1961 version of King of Kings, directed by Nicholas Ray.

Webb and Hunter set up their own company, Apollo Productions, to make the television series Temple Houston which ran between 1963 and 1964. It was Hunter’s only television series in which he regularly starred. And it was Webb’s only successful series sale to a television network — NBC — whilst he was Head of Production at Warner Brothers Television. The show was a light version of the cases which Sam Houston’s son Temple Lea Houston dealt with as a lawyer. A critic described it as ‘Perry Mason out West’. Although it was short-lived, 26 episodes aired.

Dragnet reappeared after an updated pilot film in 1966. Harry Morgan co-starred as Officer Bill Gannon in the new series with Webb in 1967. However, times were changing and, although it was popular with audiences, young adult viewers sided more with the criminal than Friday and Gannon. This was the Vietnam War era, after all, and putting someone in the slammer was pretty uncool; police were seen as oppressors.

I remember great episodes though, most of which explained the psychological aspect to the crime. One particularly sad one dealt with a young rapist who never knew his father. His mother, then his grandmother brought him up, rather harshly. He grew to become a misogynist. His way of getting back at the women in his family was by raping other women. It was very sad, indeed.

Webb had more luck with the 70s and 80s generations. His subsequent productions  included Adam-12 and Emergency. He had no televisual role in either.

Private life

Webb was married four times. His first wife, the beautiful actress Julie London, bore him two daughters, Stacy and Lisa. Stacy collaborated on a book of Webb’s life called Just the Facts, Ma’am; The Authorized Biography of Jack Webb, Creator of Dragnet, Adam-12, and Emergency! She died in a car accident in 1996 three years before it was published. Lisa, born in 1952, survives her.

Webb and London divorced in 1954 after being married for seven years. He married Dorothy Towne in 1955 and divorced her in 1957. He married former Miss USA Jackie Loughery in 1958, divorcing her in 1964. Then came a long hiatus until he married Opal Wright in 1980.

Webb died in 1982 at the age of 62. The LAPD gave him a funeral with full police honours. They also retired the badge number he used in Dragnet: 714.

At the time Webb suffered his fatal heart attack, he was putting together a third series of Dragnet with a new co-star, Kent McCord.

I couldn’t find out how or if Catholicism fit into Webb’s later life. Perhaps the divorces created a perceived state of no return for him.

However, the self-discipline he must have learned at Our Lady of Loretto and the Benedictine values at St John’s University served him well professionally.

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