Letters and Politics

A Tribute to former KPFA & KPFK General Manager Richard Pirodsky

On today’s show a tribute to Richard Pirodsky former General Manager of KPFA and KPFK and author of Demigod.


Richard Wayne Pirodsky was born on August 10, 1955, in the town of Freeport on New York’s Long Island. As a youngster he served as an acolyte in the Episcopal church, enjoyed playing baseball, and was a member of the Civil Air Patrol. He graduated from Freeport High School in 1973, where he performed leading roles in school musicals, and went on to study drama in BFA programs at Carnegie Mellon and New York University. As a professional actor, he performed at the Gateway Playhouse on Long Island and at the Mansfield Summer Theatre in Pennsylvania.Shifting to a career in public media management, Richard served as director of video production at Glendale College in California, and general manager of public and college radio stations on Long Island, at KKFI in Kansas City, Missouri, and at KPVL in Decorah, Iowa, before becoming the General Manager of the Pacifica radio stations KPFA in Berkeley and KPFK in Los Angeles.

Richard worked as a researcher/writer for a Kansas City-based video production company, most notably penning the script for a documentary about President Harry Truman for the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation. Richard is the author of The Demigod, an historical novel based on the life of the demagogical radio priest Father Charles Coughlin, and has written essays and opinion pieces for New York’s Newsday.

An avid fan of Old-Time Radio and member of SPERDVAC, Richard collected thousands of audio recordings and donated them to the Marr Sound Archives at the University of Missouri at Kansas City where they are housed as the Richard Pirodsky Collection. Richard’s favorite pastime was cheering for the New York Yankees. He died on April 7, 2016, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

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About the book:

Demagogue: a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of the lower socioeconomic classes in order to gain power and promote political motives.

Donald Trump made news recently for his outrageous comments bashing Mexico and Mexicans. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump said during his presidential announcement, “they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”

We’ll talk about Trump’s latest demagoguery, and demagoguery of the not-so distant past.

Father Coughlin, was a controversial Roman Catholic priest based near Detroit. He was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience, as up to thirty million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s. He was forced off the air in 1939.

Early in his radio career, Coughlin was a vocal supporter of FDR and his New Deal. By 1934 he became a harsh critic of Roosevelt as too friendly to bankers. In 1934 he announced a new political organization called the National Union for Social Justice. He wrote a platform calling for monetary reforms, the nationalization of major industries and railroads, and protection of the rights of labor. The membership ran into the millions, but it was not well-organized at the local level.

After hinting at attacks on Jewish bankers, Coughlin began to use his radio program to issue antisemitic commentary, and in the late 1930s to support some of the policies of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. The broadcasts have been called “a variation of the Fascist agenda applied to American culture”

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