#MTP Trivia: During Nixon’s ’56 VP run who made headlines on MTP by saying his conduct in '50 Sen race lacked character & was based on lies.— Betsy Fischer Martin (@BetsyMTP) January 9, 2013
This Wednesday marked what would have been President Richard Nixon’s 100th birthday. The controversial president has always had critics, including Eleanor Roosevelt, whose assessment of Nixon made news on Meet the Press before his presidential career had even begun. The former First Lady appeared on Meet the Press in September of 1956, and she did not hold back in her judgment of the then-Vice Presidential candidate. Mrs. Roosevelt, who was supporting Democrat Adlai Stevenson, said that though she had been told that Nixon was “a very fine young man” who “has matured and grown in many ways,” she could not forgive him for his conduct during his 1950 race for the U.S. Senate. During that campaign, according to Mrs. Roosevelt, Nixon had accused his liberal opponent, former California Congresswoman and actress Helen Gahagan Douglas of being a Communist – a claim that Roosevelt said Nixon knew to be false at the time. She concluded on Meet the Press: “I’ve always felt that anyone who wanted an election so much that they would use those means did not have the character that I really admired in public life.” Nixon had indeed gone on to win the Senate seat over Douglas, by 59% of the vote.
Eleanor Roosevelt’s comment Meet the Press immediately made headlines in the final stretch of the ’56 election. The New York Times highlighted Mrs. Roosevelt’s comments, and noted her accusations about Nixon’s campaign strategy, and assertion that she had “no respect for that kind of character.” Mrs. Roosevelt had been introduced at the beginning of her 1956 appearance as one of the ‘toughest and the shrewdest Democrat alive’ – and the First Lady clearly lived up to her reputation during that Meet the Press interview. You can watch more of Eleanor Roosevelt’s discussion of Richard Nixon in the clip below.