LOS ANGELES (JTA) — It’s a story that would not sound too out of place in 2019: New York’s leading newspaper accuses the president of the United States of corruption and the latter sues the paper’s publisher for libel. Striking back, the publisher declares in an editorial that his newspaper “cannot be muzzled.”
That confrontation actually happened in the first decade of the 20th century, pitting President Theodore Roosevelt against Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant who had lifted The World to the rank of most influential newspaper in New York and the broader United States.
In one of his numerous crusades, Pulitzer charged Roosevelt with orchestrating a $40 million cover-up of corrupt practices in the building of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt retaliated by demanding, in an address to Congress, that the government perform its “high national duty to bring to justice the vilifier of the American people.” Not cowed, Pulitzer proclaimed,