Closing chapter on my one-time friend, Josh Kruger

I come to bury Josh Kruger, not to praise him.

Molester and victim Josh Kruger (left), victim and murderer Robert Davis. (Photo: The Advocate)

Save the hash about not speaking ill of the dead. Kruger was a child molester who groomed a 15-year-old boy.

I wrote about him twice before. Briefly in March 2022, when I explained that the Philadelphia Weekly alternative publication was shifting gears and aiming toward what I predicted (correctly, as things turned out) would be a failed predominantly arts and music format.

Kruger, who had zero experience as an editor, was named editor. [Spoiler alert: He lasted about three months.] In his first “letter” to readers, he  was as ungracious to his predecessor editors as was Donald J. Trump to previous presidents.

Kruger called the previous version of PW “a conservative propaganda machine,” which it was not.

He also referred to himself, too cleverly, as being kind, but not nice.

Only half true, as we will see. He was not kind.

A couple of years before Kruger arrived, PW Publisher Dan McDonough,  tired of losing money as an alternative pub with a heavy dose of entertainment supported by left-wing reporting and opinion, decided to change course.

In a very blue city, what was he the alternative to?, McDonough asked himself. 

He decided to turn conservative, aiming for something like a right-wing Village Voice.

He hired former Philadelphia Daily News staffer Jenny DeHuff, who then brought me on as a contributor.

Despite what some pinheads [Philadelphia Magazine’s resident snake of snark Victor Fiorillo] say, I am not a “conservative columnist.” I endorsed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I am pro-choice and pro-union. I am a member of Greenpeace, the NAACP, PETA. 

Sound conservative to you?

But I oppose much of the extreme progressive agenda. I am anti-PC, and anti-Woke. And, oh yes, I am anti-illegal immigrant. You know, people who break the law.

Two of my best pieces for PW — how Philly cops were running for the exits, long before this was revealed to be part of a national trend, and another on how D.A. Larry Krasner uses a bait and switch bail technique to blame Municipal Court for his failures — were exposes. Neither was “conservative,” but each was unlikely to be published by the Inquirer. [The cop quitting story had been pitched to Inquirer editors, who turned it down.] 

Anyway, with PW’s change of direction, I expected a call from Kruger, telling me my services would no longer be required. That would be a common courtesy.

After all, in an earlier conversation, when we were still friends, he told me, “I always tell people that you were one of the only writers who helped me learn the craft and gave me the time of day.”

That was true.

He never called to say I was being dropped. He took the coward’s path and simply removed my name from the masthead. No thank you. No gold watch. No nothing. But, really, it was more disappointment in him than anger.

About 15 years earlier, when I first saw articles by him in the local media, I called him and invited him out for drinks. This turned out to be a minor faux pas, as he explained at the bar, because he was a recovering alcoholic. And recovering drug addict. And HIV-infected. And formerly homeless. And a one-time male prostitute, but still firmly gay.

That was a quite an earful, but everyone likes a story about redemption, and his was well told. The kid clearly was a comer, and I like talent.

I admired his writing style, his radical point of view (which I did not share), his language, humor and personality. He was an unabashed social justice warrior whose humor was exemplified by his Twitter bio, where he referred to himself as an “award winning/losing writer.”

He was also something of a narcissist, publishing endless selfies of his handsome face, then later endless shots of himself with his cat Mason, and also endless confessions about taco binges.

After supporting progressive causes and mayoral candidate Jim Kenney in his writing, I was not surprised that Kenney offered him a job on his mayoral communications staff, giving Kruger his first, real, full-time job.

I joked that now Kruger would be paid to kiss Kenney’s ass, after doing it for free for so long.

He laughed, with his shockingly blue eyes bugging out.

Before he was employed, we argued about how far a welfare state should go. He believed — and I did not — that health care is (as Bernie Sanders would say) “a hooman right.”

My belief is American rights are enshrined in the Constitution and this was not mentioned. If healthcare is a right, I asked him, then shouldn’t food and shelter be rights, too?

He said yes, and he was serious. Clothing, too. He believed the government should fill all human needs. 

I wrote that I told him he might feel differently about all this if he had to pay for it himself, but then corrected myself to say he probably would be OK with it. Then I added, because he was not a hypocrite. 

I was wrong. 

As things progressed, we drifted apart and so did he and Kenney. Kruger left the mayor’s PR team, and wound up with the city’s office that services the homeless. It seemed a good fit because he had been homeless, and his income enabled him to buy a small house in South Philly.

The house in which he was murdered. I wrote a kind of tribute to Kruger last October.

I started that one the opposite of how I started this one.

In October, I said I came to praise Josh Kruger, not bury him.

I told the stories there I just told you here.

Although he had been gutless when it came to me, that was a minor character flaw, and I still liked the person he was.

Facts were revealed as police investigated his murder that the social justice warrior was a homosexual child predator and a blackmailer, according to the accused murderer’s family.

The accusations, sadly, fit the facts, as did evidence found on Kruger’s phone.

I publish the story now because Robert Davis — the victim and the perpetrator — has been sentenced to 15-30 years for killing Kruger, his lover and tormentor.

In life, Kruger was admired by many, including me.

In death, he was revealed to be a vile scumbag.

12 thoughts on “Closing chapter on my one-time friend, Josh Kruger”

  1. Very well written, Stu. I can’t quibble with a single think therein. Conservative, Liberal, Centrist, whatever the fuck you are, 🙂 you are always FAIR. And that counts for a LOT in my book.

  2. Stu:

    This couldn’t have been easy for you to write. But, as always, you told the story.

    Respect!

    Mike

  3. Good one Stu, tough to write I’m sure. Too bad they couldn’t have killed him twice, once for justice and once for piece of mind, but since there’s no justice, I guess that once will have to do.

  4. Stu,
    Like you, I was briefly angry about not getting a call or a simple email mail informing me that my Philadelphia Weekly Crime Beat column would be dropped by Kruger and the new publisher.
    Publishers and editors have the right to hire – and fire – whom they please, but I thought it was unprofessional that I, you, and others did not receive so much as an email telling us that we were no longer contributors to the weekly newspaper.
    I took no pleasure that Kruger was later fired, later still murdered, and now I take no pleasure that he appears to be a bad guy.
    Paul,
    Paul Davis

  5. My favorite angle to the Josh Kruger saga is the BS profile he wrote in the December 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine entitled, “Inside Jim Kenney’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year.”

    Imagine hiring a city employee to write a profile of their former boss. The story was filled with hard-hitting anecdotes like this:

    Speaking with Kenney’s former special liaison Louisa Mfum-Mensah again, I ask her what his character is like. She thinks a while.

    “He’s got a heart of gold and truly wants to do right by the city and its people,” she says.

  6. What Ralph and Paul said.

    Thank you again for the shout-out, Stu.

    And sorry PW didn’t handle it all with more grace.

  7. Stu:
    Josh Kruger was a chicken hawk, a mendacious predator of unsuspecting adolescent males while, at the same time, posing as both friend and mentor, somebody who understood teen-aged angst. He was a total wicked and fraudulent man.
    If Kruger was a chicken hawk who flew with feathers, the laws of natural selection would have taken him out a long time ago.

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