The other day, conservative MSNBC “analyst” Mark Halperin called President Obama “a dick” on live TV, setting off a firestorm of criticism. Halperin, who also writes for TIME Magazine, was suspended indefinitely from the network. Honestly, what’s the big deal? After all, Halperin was just following in a time-honored tradition of presidential frat-boy name-calling by America’s journalists.
Take, for instance, the time in 1797 when Thomas Paine called George Washington “a douche” for refusing to run for a third term in office. Or when Edward R. Murrow responded to a 1959 speech by Dwight D. Eisenhower by saying that Ike was “kind of an ass pie.” Then there was Joseph Pulitzer’s reaction to Theodore Roosevelt’s launching of the Bull Moose party in 1912. “Teddy,” wrote Pulitzer, “is acting like a real fartknocker.” And who could forget the time that Walter Cronkite called out John F. Kennedy over the failed Bay of Pigs invasion at the end of a 1961 telecast. “JFK,” said Cronkite, “is a giant jerkwad.”
More instances of journalistic insults:
• Charles Dickens, in 1837, writing in Bentley’s Miscellany, wrote of England’s Prime Minister William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne: “Melbourne is a huge wanker.”
• Horace Greeley, publisher of The New York Tribune, writing in an 1864 editorial: “Abe Lincoln, you, sir, are a humongous jag-off.”
• Nellie Bly, in an 1887 article in The Pittsburgh Dispatch, called President Grover Cleveland a “big, fat dipshit.”
• French philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre called French President Charles de Gaulle “a ginormous A-hole” in 1959.
• David Brinkley, co-host of NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report, said in 1967 of President Lyndon Johnson: “What a butthead!”