In 1950 Time magazine published an article about an apocryphal story about former U.S. Senator (D-Florida) George Smathers:
According to the yarn, Smathers had a little speech for cracker voters, who were presumed not to know what the words meant except that they must be something bad. The speech went like this: “Are you aware that [opponent] Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper before his marriage habitually practiced celibacy.”
Brilliant! If you were in Pepper’s shoes, would you deny these types of charges? How can you face people who look at you with suspicion when not only are the accusations true, but can actually be the right things to do? (especially in 1950)
I love that story. Even though it’s false (Smathers reputedly offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove that he said it, an offer that went unclaimed up to his death) it provides a cautionary tale of just how someone can use an audience’s confusion against their opponents and yet still be telling the truth at the same time.
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