As a weekly newsletter dedicated to digging up "facts to combat Communism," Counterattack was started in 1947 by three ex-FBI men. Of the three, Ted C. Kirkpatrick, the newsletter's impressive spokesman, quickly became known as "Mr. Counterattack." Though Counterattack's circulation, at $24 a year, never grew beyond 7,500, Kirkpatrick's name and the newsletter's influence stretched far beyond the small circle of readers. When Counterattack published Red Channels, a report on Communist influence on radio and TV (TIME, Sept. n, 1950), Kirkpatrick often spoke defending it from the charge that it was smearing innocent people. His argument: Red Channels "did not advocate any specific action, and therefore was not responsible for any misuse that was made of it, if there was any."
Last week Mr. Counterattack himself quit the newsletter for "primarily personal reasons." Kirkpatrick said he was considering another job with an anti-Communist group, but would not give up the battle against the army of critics who have sniped at Counterattack and Red Channels. Said he: "People don't appreciate what you've done. There have been so many attacks ... of a personal nature." Kirkpatrick is the second of the three founders to quit. A year ago Kenneth Bierly left after he had come to the conclusion that Counterattack had "changed into an opinion and editorial sheetshort on facts and long on opinion"and that Red Channels, even though it had "spotlighted" a problem, resulted in "lots of people getting kicked around." Bierly set up a research outfit of his own. His first big job: a research assignment from Columbia Pictures which resulted in the clearing of one of its stars who had been named in Counterattack as a Communist sympathizer.
Although there was gossip that Kirkpatrick felt the same as Bierly, both Kirkpatrick and John Keenan, the only remaining founder, denied it. Added Keenan: "[The] widespread rumor and gossip recently to the effect that a change in the ownership and policies ... is being contemplated . . . [is] entirely unfounded."
Both Kirkpatrick and Bierly had good financial reasons for clearing out. Although Counterattack has won a measure of dubious fame, it has barely been able to keep its head above water. It never paid salaries of more than $6,000 a year, and it paid only a few dividends of $1 each on its 1,000 shares of stock. Its special research jobs for corporations, ad agencies, unions, etc. now account for about 5% of its income; the rest comes from Counterattack subscriptions. But by next fall, Keenan, who now has a controlling interest, expects to put out a new product that may give business a lift. He is working on a directory, bigger and broader in scope than Red Channels, that will list people, industry by industry, who have lent their names to or been connected with Communist and front organizations.