Episode 1: Dr. Hunt

Episode 1: Dr. Hunt

Update: 2024-06-1053
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This episode of Rachel Maddow Presents Ultra explores the life and tragic death of Senator Lester Hunt, a beloved Democrat from Wyoming. Hunt, known for his problem-solving skills and down-to-earth demeanor, served his state and people faithfully for over two decades, rising from a small-town dentist to governor and ultimately to the U.S. Senate. However, his time in Washington was cut short when he took his own life in 1954. While initially attributed to health problems, a bombshell article by columnist Drew Pearson revealed that Hunt had been subjected to intense political pressure, known as a "blackmail," from fellow Republican senators. This revelation, coupled with the senator's sudden change in behavior and withdrawal from his colleagues, raised questions about the true nature of his death. The episode delves into the historical context of Hunt's suicide, highlighting the lingering influence of the Great Sedition Trial, a failed prosecution of alleged fascists in the 1940s. This trial exposed a network of American fascists connected to Hitler's regime, who had infiltrated American politics and sought to undermine democracy. The episode argues that the failure to hold these individuals accountable paved the way for the resurgence of extremist forces in American politics, culminating in Hunt's tragic demise. The episode concludes by emphasizing the importance of vigilance against anti-democratic forces and the need to protect American democracy from those who seek to destroy it.

Outlines

00:00:00
Introduction

This Chapter introduces the podcast and its focus on the life and death of Senator Lester Hunt, a popular Democrat from Wyoming. It highlights the contrast between Hunt's down-to-earth personality and the dangerous political climate he would encounter in Washington.

00:14:43
Senator Hunt's Suicide

This Chapter details the events leading up to Senator Hunt's suicide on Father's Day weekend in 1954. It describes his restless mood, his decision to bring a hunting rifle to the Capitol, and the discovery of his body in his Senate office. The chapter also explores the initial reports of Hunt's death, which attributed it to health problems, and the subsequent revelation of political pressure as a contributing factor.

00:26:58
Drew Pearson's Bombshell Article

This Chapter focuses on the publication of a bombshell article by columnist Drew Pearson, who revealed that Senator Hunt had been subjected to intense political pressure, known as a "blackmail," from fellow Republican senators. The article named names and accused these senators of forcing Hunt out of the Senate, ultimately leading to his suicide. The chapter discusses the impact of Pearson's article and the backlash he faced from the accused senators.

00:30:08
The Great Sedition Trial

This Chapter delves into the historical context of Hunt's suicide, highlighting the lingering influence of the Great Sedition Trial, a failed prosecution of alleged fascists in the 1940s. The trial exposed a network of American fascists connected to Hitler's regime, who had infiltrated American politics and sought to undermine democracy. The chapter discusses the consequences of the trial's collapse and the failure to hold these individuals accountable.

00:35:05
The Danger of Extremist Forces

This Chapter explores the broader implications of the events surrounding Senator Hunt's death, arguing that the failure to address the rise of extremist forces in American politics contributed to his suicide. The chapter emphasizes the importance of vigilance against anti-democratic forces and the need to protect American democracy from those who seek to destroy it.

00:37:44
Conclusion

This Chapter concludes the episode by reiterating the central themes of the story, highlighting the dangers of extremism in American politics and the importance of protecting democracy. It also acknowledges the ongoing struggle against these forces and the need for continued vigilance.

Keywords

Lester Hunt
Lester C. Hunt was a Democratic politician from Wyoming who served as the 17th governor of Wyoming from 1943 to 1949 and as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming from 1949 until his death in 1954. He was known for his down-to-earth personality, his problem-solving skills, and his popularity among the people of Wyoming. He was also a successful dentist and a veteran of World War I. Hunt's life and death are the subject of this episode of Rachel Maddow Presents Ultra.

Blackmail
Blackmail is a form of political pressure or extortion in which someone is threatened with exposure of damaging information or actions unless they comply with certain demands. In this episode, it is alleged that Senator Lester Hunt was subjected to blackmail by fellow Republican senators, who sought to force him out of the Senate. This pressure is believed to have contributed to his suicide.

Great Sedition Trial
The Great Sedition Trial was a failed prosecution of alleged fascists in the United States in the 1940s. The trial exposed a network of American fascists connected to Hitler's regime, who had infiltrated American politics and sought to undermine democracy. The trial's collapse and the failure to hold these individuals accountable are seen as contributing factors to the resurgence of extremist forces in American politics.

Fascism
Fascism is a far-right, authoritarian political ideology that emphasizes nationalism, militarism, and the suppression of opposition. It is characterized by a strong central government, a cult of personality, and a rejection of democratic principles. The episode explores the dangers of fascism in American politics and the need to protect democracy from its influence.

Drew Pearson
Drew Pearson was a well-known American columnist and radio commentator who was known for his investigative journalism and his willingness to expose corruption in government. In this episode, Pearson's article about Senator Lester Hunt's suicide revealed the political pressure that Hunt had been subjected to, which is believed to have contributed to his death.

Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the western United States known for its rugged landscapes, its vast open spaces, and its strong Republican political leanings. Senator Lester Hunt was a Democrat from Wyoming, and his popularity in the state was a testament to his ability to appeal to voters across party lines.

United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress. It is composed of 100 members, two from each state. Senators are elected by the people of their state to serve six-year terms. The Senate has a number of important powers, including confirming presidential appointments, ratifying treaties, and trying impeachment cases. Senator Lester Hunt served in the U.S. Senate from 1949 until his death in 1954.

American Democracy
American democracy is a system of government in which the people hold the power and elect representatives to govern on their behalf. It is based on the principles of individual liberty, equality, and the rule of law. The episode explores the threats to American democracy posed by extremist forces and the importance of protecting its institutions.

Political Extremism
Political extremism is a form of political ideology that is characterized by radical views and a willingness to use extreme measures to achieve its goals. It can manifest in both left-wing and right-wing forms. The episode highlights the dangers of political extremism in American politics and the need to address its influence.

Anti-Democratic Forces
Anti-democratic forces are groups or individuals who oppose democratic principles and seek to undermine or overthrow democratic institutions. They may use a variety of tactics, including violence, intimidation, and propaganda. The episode warns against the dangers of anti-democratic forces and the importance of protecting democracy from their influence.

Q&A

  • Who was Senator Lester Hunt and what was he known for?

    Senator Lester Hunt was a popular Democrat from Wyoming who served as governor and then senator. He was known for his problem-solving skills, down-to-earth personality, and his ability to appeal to voters across party lines.

  • What led to Senator Hunt's suicide in 1954?

    While initially attributed to health problems, a bombshell article by columnist Drew Pearson revealed that Hunt had been subjected to intense political pressure, known as a "blackmail," from fellow Republican senators. This pressure, coupled with his sudden change in behavior and withdrawal from his colleagues, is believed to have contributed to his suicide.

  • What was the Great Sedition Trial and how did it relate to Senator Hunt's death?

    The Great Sedition Trial was a failed prosecution of alleged fascists in the 1940s. It exposed a network of American fascists connected to Hitler's regime who had infiltrated American politics. The trial's collapse and the failure to hold these individuals accountable are seen as contributing factors to the resurgence of extremist forces in American politics, which ultimately led to Hunt's tragic demise.

  • What are the dangers of extremist forces in American politics?

    Extremist forces can undermine democratic principles, spread misinformation, and incite violence. They pose a threat to the integrity of American democracy and the rule of law.

  • What can be done to protect American democracy from extremist forces?

    It is crucial to be vigilant against anti-democratic forces, to promote civic education and critical thinking, and to hold elected officials accountable for their actions. It is also important to support organizations that work to combat extremism and promote democratic values.

  • What was the impact of Drew Pearson's article about Senator Hunt's death?

    Pearson's article exposed the political pressure that Hunt had been subjected to, which is believed to have contributed to his suicide. It also raised questions about the true nature of his death and the influence of extremist forces in American politics.

  • How did the failure to hold the defendants in the Great Sedition Trial accountable contribute to the rise of extremism?

    The failure to hold these individuals accountable allowed them to continue their activities and spread their ideology. It also created a climate of impunity for extremist forces, emboldening them to infiltrate American politics and undermine democracy.

  • What lessons can be learned from Senator Hunt's story?

    Senator Hunt's story serves as a reminder of the dangers of extremism in American politics and the importance of protecting democracy from its influence. It also highlights the need for vigilance against anti-democratic forces and the importance of holding elected officials accountable for their actions.

  • What is the significance of Senator Hunt's suicide in the context of American history?

    Senator Hunt's suicide is a tragic event that reflects the dangers of extremism in American politics. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting democracy from those who seek to undermine it.

  • What is the message of this episode of Rachel Maddow Presents Ultra?

    The episode warns against the dangers of extremism in American politics and the importance of protecting democracy. It also highlights the need for vigilance against anti-democratic forces and the importance of holding elected officials accountable for their actions.

Show Notes

The sudden and shocking suicide of a popular Democratic Senator, inside his Senate office, stuns the country and the nation’s capital. And soon, a series of bombshell revelations concerning the circumstances around the senator’s death will start to reveal a web of troubling forces at work on the American ultra right in the post-war 1950s.

This episode contains descriptions that reference self-harm. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat live at 988lifeline.org. You can also visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional support.

Comments (3)

Jenny Mummert

Fascinating, Rachel. Thank you for working so hard to inform us. Difficult times ahead.

Jun 11th
Reply

Bea Kiddo

God I hope this isn’t our future in America. It sure sounds like it’s happening again. I wish people would see and realize that Trump is a real deal traitor.

Jun 10th
Reply (1)
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Episode 1: Dr. Hunt

Episode 1: Dr. Hunt

Rodger McDaniel, Rachel Maddow