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Charles Coughlin

Father Charles Coughlin (October 25, 1891 - October 27, 1979) was a Roman Catholic priest, and one of the first televangelists to preach to a widespread listening audience over the medium of radio during the Great Depression. He began his radio broadcasts in 1926, broadcasting weekly sermons on a regular program. He was an early supporter of the reforms of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the author of the phrase "Roosevelt or ruin," which was famous during the early days of the FDR administration. However, Coughlin's theology changed over the course of the 1930s as he preached more and more about "monetary reform" and the influence of "international bankers" upon the welfare of the United States. His sermons became more and more anti-Semitic over the decade, stirring up controversy and finally turning the Catholic Church against him. In 1940, authority figures in the Church ordered Coughlin to stop his radio broadcasts and return to his duties as a parish priest.

Coughlin was a supporter of the fascist policies of Hitler and Mussolini during his tenure as a radio preacher, though this was before World War II began. At its peak, his radio show was phenomenally popular (historians state that his office received 80,000 letters per week from listeners), and his listening audience was estimated to be as much as one-third of the nation. The political power of his radio show did not go unnoticed, and Coughlin was often grouped together with other radio speakers under the political umbrella of the "lunatic fringe." His listening audience did have the power to change the sway of elections, and Coughlin is often credited as one of the major demagogues of the 20th century for being able to influence politics through a wide audience, without actually holding a political office himself.