Yep, you can't really assess the man without considering his radio presence. While the Society has perhaps puffed up his significance a bit, the fact is that he was very much a prominent figure on the air up thru 1937 -- and his dossier at the FCC was extremely thick. It was his broadcasts, more than his writings, that brought him to the attention of the FBI, which thought enough of him to put him in their "detention" list of people who were to be rounded up if war broke out, and it was his broadcasts that reached far more people than his books or pamphlets ever did. They deserve very careful consideration, not just for what they said, but for how he said it. Most of his post-1937 radio talks are floating around the net in recorded form, but *all* of his "hour talks" were recorded starting in 1933, and there are a number of very important Rutherford broadcasts from 1933-36 that have yet to have their complete recordings restored. Some of those so-called "sound car records" you see from time to time on eBay are valuable historical documents that need to be gathered together and properly preserved for critical study.
The loathing between Coughlin and Rutherford was mutual. Coughlin had one of his henchmen, Edward Lodge Curran of Brooklyn, deliver a blistering attack on the Witnesses over the radio in 1939, and though the voice was Curran, the words were quite clearly written by Coughlin himself.
It seems likely, by the way, that Rutherford was more than just a radio personality. There is a very suspicious connection between the Judge and WHK, a commercial radio station in Cleveland, controlled from the mid-twenties well into the 1930s by a certain M. A. Howlett and his brothers. Yes, that's Malcolm A. or Matthew A. Howlett, depending on which name he was using at the time, the same M. A. Howlett you see listed among the "full time brothers" in the early yearbooks, the same M. A. Howlett who was supposedly the Judge's dietician, the same M. A. Howlett who worked at WBBR, the same M. A. Howlett who had been a traveling Pilgrim, the same M. A. Howlett who was one of Rutherford's closest associates at Bethel. And the same M. A. Howlett who not only owned a CBS affiliate in Cleveland, but also, astonishingly, served as secretary-treasurer of the National Association of Broadcasters, commercial radio's trade organization, from 1931-33.
Now why, and through what means, and for what purpose, would a prominent brother manage to achieve not just the ownership of a major commercial radio station but also a vital position within the highest echelons of the broadcasting industry itself, without the Judge himself having not just some awareness of this activity but perhaps some personal financial interest in it of his own?
Stroup never wrote about any of this, suggesting a tight lid was being kept on it by The Brothers In Brooklyn at the time, even though Howlett was a very prominent figure in the Society for as long as Rutherford lived -- immediately after selling the station in 1934 he turned up again in Brooklyn, and was most prominent as the Judge's traveling enforcer during the fallout over the Moyle affair in 1939. Penton never wrote about it either. I came across a brief mention of it in some internet article, and that motivated me to dig around in some broadcast-industry trade publications -- where I was able to confirm that good Brother Howlett was a very big cheese in the radio industry indeed.
Did Rutherford use Howlett as a catspaw in controlling WHK and infiltrating the NAB? Did he personally profit from the operation and sale of a commercial radio station while president of the Society? If not, how did a "traveling Pilgrim brother" and Bethelite manage to raise the money to buy into WHK in the first place -- and why would he have done so? I can't say for sure one way or another, but what would the circumstantial evidence suggest?
We do have an interesting comment from Howlett himself during his testimony during the Moyle trial -- when asked by H. C. Covington about his Bethel service, he confirms that he has been a member of the Bethel Family since 1917, and that he had only been away from Bethel for "meeting assignments and Radio Service." Later his wife Helen testifies that they were married in 1934 -- in Cleveland, which is where that "radio service" took place. An interesting line to read between, suggesting that the good brother was working for the Society at the same time he was running WHK, and that WHK, the voice of CBS in Cleveland, was in reality a "stealth" Watch Tower station for the better part of eight years. Or perhaps the reason the Society never admits to owning WHK is that "The Society" didn't -- and J. F. Rutherford himself did. Speculation, but is it really beyond him?