The influence of the Kansas City Star on Harry S. Truman's political career has more to do with Truman's association with the Pendergast political machine that dominated Missouri politics than it does with his brief career as a mailroom clerk for the newspaper in 1901. The newspaper's frequent attacks on Truman forced him to work harder to develop a reputation for personal integrity and honesty and prove himself a capable politician.Continue Reading
Tom Pendergast controlled Missouri politics during the first half of the 20th century and helped Truman win election to his first position as a county judge. The Pendergast machine saw Truman’s reputation as vital to its legitimacy by having at least one honest office holder among its ranks and helped assure Truman's 1934 election to the U.S. Senate. The Kansas City Star frequently criticized the widespread corruption in Missouri politics and Truman for his association with the Pendergast machine. In 1936, the newspaper initiated an investigation into Truman’s election that revealed voter fraud and led to Pendergast’s conviction for income tax evasion.
Senators initially snubbed Truman due to his connection with Pendergast and corruption in Missouri, both of which were well-known in Washington and under federal investigation. Again, Truman worked to distinguish himself as a capable and honest politician and gained allies and key committee appointments. The paper’s attacks on Truman escalated in 1945 when Truman attended Pendergast’s funeral just weeks before becoming president. The paper remained frequently critical of Truman throughout his presidency.
In the closing days of the Truman administration, a federal grand jury indicted the Kansas City Star on charges of monopolistic advertising practices and eventually forced the paper to sell its radio and television holdings, a move seen by many as retribution for the newspaper's years of opposition to Truman.Learn more about US History