Trump said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and it’d be A-okay, but it’s because he was a Republican and a cult leader that he wouldn’t lose votes. Ironically, the party with fewer religious wingnuts has gotten awfully puritanical about their presidential candidates since May 24, 1987, when photos of Gary Hart getting snuggly with 29-year-old not-his-wife model and actress Donna Rice were made public.
--On This Day in History, Shit Went Down: May 24, 1987--
After eight years of trickling down with Reaganomics and his “let them die” approach to the AIDS crisis, people were ready for a change. But the world got four more years of Reagan-light in the elder George Bush because the clear Democrat frontrunner had an alleged runaway penis, which the media made known. I mean, if you consider The National Enquirer to be the media. But still, there were pics of Rice sitting on Hart’s lap. And they were published. And then Gary was fucked for (allegedly) getting fucked.
Prior to the pic publication, a reporter for The Washington Post asked Hart about the rumors of him being a womanizer, and he replied his opponents were “not going to win that way, because you don’t get to the top by tearing someone else down.” Wow was he wrong. I mean, he might have been right looking backward, but forward?
Trump won the presidency in 2016 with help from the Enquirer. Hart lost it because of the same paper. Well, not just that, as he suspended his campaign when he saw the media sharks circling before the pics were published. But the end result was Gary had to drop out of the leadership race and the Democrats were stuck with the uninspiring Michael Dukakis as a backup.
Interestingly, the Enquirer’s actions weren’t political. At least, not back then.
After things like Watergate, then Jimmy Carter pledging “I won’t lie to you,” and then Reagan lying about Iran-Contra, presidential elections were becoming a lot more about character, which led the press toward more tabloid pursuits concerning things such as whose genitalia went where.
Paid subscribers get access to more private stories, but I promise nothing to do with genitalia.
The Enquirer’s exposé of the Hart-Rice affair didn’t happen because he was a Democrat. The publication wasn’t playing favorites, yet. They went after him because it was a juicy story that would sell birdcage liners. It wasn’t until later that David Pecker, a close friend of Trump, would become CEO of American Media (which owns the Enquirer) and do the “catch and kill” on unflattering stories not just about his pal Donnie, but on California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as well.
Years later, it was alleged that Hart was set up; both Rice and Hart denied there was ever an affair.
Get the book On This Day in History Sh!t Went Down.
I wonder if the Gary Hart story would have as much effect on his campaign if he was running these days...