Actually, I originally titled this post “Once an Asshole…Always An Asshole” but I thought I should remember we’re a family blog.
Some of you know that I used to work for Tom Eagleton and that he died last March. Yesterday, I stumbled across this press release from Robert Novak’s publisher:
Former Sen. Tom Eagleton Labeled ’72 Dem Nominee McGovern as Candidate of’Amnesty, Abortion and Acid’ WASHINGTON, July 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, columnist Robert Novak revealed one of his most secret sources: Sen. Tom Eagleton (D-MO) gave him the quote that labeled 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern as the candidate of “Amnesty, Abortion and Acid.” This is reported for the first time in his new memoir: The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington (Crown Forum). Following McGovern’s stunning victory in the ’72 Massachusetts primary, Novak began calling Democratic politicians to get their reaction. The April 27, 1972 Evans & Novak column reported an anonymous source as saying “people don’t know McGovern is for amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot. Once middle America — Catholic middle America, in particular — find this out, he’s dead.” This sent Washington into a frenzy to try to figure out which Democrat was bad-mouthing one of his own. Ironically, several months later Eagleton would be tapped as McGovern’s running mate, only to be replaced after it was learned that Eagleton underwent electro-shock therapy for depression. In his memoir of the 1972 campaign, McGovern’s press secretary Richard Dougherty made a comment that implied Novak had fabricated the quote. In an
attempt to set the record straight, Novak asked Sen. Eagleton for permission to disclose his name. Eagleton replied that he made the comment off-the- record and he intended it to stay that way. Mr. Novak contacted Sen. Eagleton as he was writing The Prince of Darkness and, thirty years later, still would not allow his identity to be revealed.
Former Sen. Tom Eagleton died on March 4, 2007, thus freeing Mr. Novak to reveal the source of one of the most memorable quotes in presidential campaign history.
I have no idea if Tom said this to Novak or not. I do know that he’s conveniently no longer around to rebut the allegation. I also know that Novak’s is the same guy who turned over his source to the grand jury investigating Valerie Plame. And, I know that death does not release the obligation of a reporter to keep something off the record unless specifically agreed to.
But, hey, there’s a book to sell.