Herb Denenberg, Consumer Watchdog, Dead At 81

herb.JPGINQUIRER: Herb Denenberg – the maverick television consumer advocate, newspaper columnist, and former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner – died last night at his home in Wayne of an apparant heart attack. Mr. Denenberg, 81, was probably best known for his 24-year run on WCAU-TV (Channel 10) where he served as an investigative consumer reporter from 1975 to 1998. As host of “Denenberg’s Dump,” he skewered the makers of hundreds of products. “The consumer has been screwed long enough,” was his battle cry and Denenberg speared his foes with an in-your-face approach and nasal whine. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Herb Denenberg is — as he has been for the better part of his 72 years — mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it any more. “I don’t care if they have the whole lost tribe of Israel working at [the Inquirer‘s newsroom at] 400 N. Broad St. I don’t care if there are choirs of angels on every floor of the newsroom. All I care about is what I read in the paper, and that’s what I’m drawing conclusions from,” he says, sitting over Chinese food in Bryn Mawr, his sauteed vegetables and shrimp largely untouched.

Denenberg does not talk with his mouth full and he has been talking more or less nonstop for the last hour. Clearly frustrated that, over the course of lunch, herb_PW.jpgPW has yet to see the light and concede that the Philadelphia Inquirer is a bastion of anti-Semitic bias, he turns up the volume and intensity a few notches. His eyes narrow as he moves his face just inches from that of his interviewer. If there were a meter for righteous indignation, the needle would be buried in the red.

“What I see in the Inquirer is anti-Israeli from A to Z, day in and day out! Headline! Body of the story! Pictures! Captions! Editorials! Op-ed! And you can smell the bias and feel the bias! It stinks and it’s wrong and I wouldn’t get this pissed about it if it wasn’t really bad, and this is really bad!”

The restaurant falls silent. Looking around nervously, Naomi Denenberg, Herb’s wife of 44 years, gently touches her husband’s shoulder, as if to ground him. The effect is instant, and Denenberg pauses and backs away slightly. The look in his eyes is once again friendly and avuncular as he ends his rap on a note of self-deprecating humor. “If nothing else, you know it’s bad when I shell out $2,500 for a full-page ad in the Exponent,” he says with a chuckle. MORE

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