Johnny Doc Is Proud to Be Irish, Democrat, Catholic, Union, and White

He is all of those things.

Doc’s St.  Joe’s Prep year­book photo (left) and Doc with Ed Rendell (photo: Jeff Fusco).

Doc’s St.
Joe’s Prep year­book photo (left) and Doc with Ed Rendell (photo: Jeff Fusco).

Last Sunday night, some 500 people paid $10-$25 each to attend a fundraiser at the Springfield Country Club in Delaware County benefitting Philadelphia’s 242nd St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which kicks off on Sunday in Center City. Revelers wore their finest green clothing and accessories, enjoyed performances by the McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance and the Vince Gallagher Band, purchased green Phillies t-shirts, and drank lots of Guinness (there was an open bar).

Comedian Joe Conklin entertained the crowd for a bit before heading off to Clearwater to join the Phillies for Spring Training, and IBEW Local 98 boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty said a few words. Doc expressed his gratitude for being named Grand Marshal of this year’s parade. He said that he was “honored and humbled.” He also said that he was proud to be Irish, Democrat, Catholic, Union, and white.

I first heard about Doc’s comments on Wednesday afternoon, when I received a call from someone who attended the fundraiser and was clearly concerned about the comment. He said that when the words came from Doc’s mouth, he and his companion looked at each other, puzzled, and noted that others seemed to flinch at the choice of words. He also says that there were no non-white people in the room. Michael Callahan, who sits on the parade’s executive committee, confirmed the remark. And so did Joe Conklin, whom I reached on Thursday morning in Clearwater. “He’s funny, Doc just talks from the heart,” says Conklin. “I really wasn’t shocked. He was just listing things that he’s proud of, and he is white.” Then after a few minutes of baseball talk, Conklin changed his story, saying he wasn’t sure what he had heard, and he suggested I speak with Frank Keel, who has long been Doc’s spokesman.

Thursday afternoon, Keel responded to an email I sent him seeking comment. “John will call you directly on this nonsense,” wrote Keel. “You gotta be kidding me.” Later in the day, Keel sent another message: “He won’t dignify the inane question by responding to it. He’s white, Irish, Catholic and labor … and he’s damn proud of all of it.”

Then this morning, I received a voicemail from Doc. He asked me to call him. I reached him on his cell phone, and he said he was in a meeting and couldn’t comment at that time. When I mentioned Keel’s email from the day before, he responded, “How do you know I paid Frank Keel this month? Frank Keel isn’t my spokesman.”

At 11:09 a.m., I received the following letter from attorney Richard Sprague:

It has been brought to my attention that you intend to publish some article that refers out-of-context to an extremely limited portion of comments John Dougherty made at a St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser at the Springfield Country Club last weekend. Specifically, you intend to report on Mr. Dougherty’s factually accurate statement that he is proud to be Democrat, Union, Catholic, Irish and white.

This statement by Mr. Dougherty is not a story. There is nothing wrong or controversial about what he said. The representations about himself only address the facts about his own existence. Mr. Dougherty was only saying he was proud of who he is. He was not directly or indirectly channeling any racist overtones and it would be false and malicious of you to suggest, imply, or infer otherwise in any publication.

As I earlier said, Mr. Dougherty’s comments do not amount to a story. Should you nevertheless elect to publish something limited solely to the above selected portion of Mr. Dougherty’s statements, the publication better not attribute, directly or by implication, any racist overtones to Mr. Dougherty.

Very truly yours,