In 1975, John Dean, former White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon, served a short prison sentence for his role in the Watergate cover-up scandal.
After his release, Dean started a new career as a writer.
In 1976, Rolling Stone magazine hired him to attend and cover the Republican National Convention, which was held in Kansas City, Missouri from August 16 to August 19, 1976.
Dean’s subsequent article about the event, illustrated by artist Ralph Steadman, was titled “Rituals of the Herd.”
It was published in the issue of Rolling Stone dated October 7. But that issue actually hit newsstands on October 1, 1976.
When it did, a racially-insensitive quotation recorded in the article generated an immediate media firestorm.
It was a remark made to Dean and singer Pat Boone by Earl Butz, a conservative Republican politician who had been appointed as Secretary of Agriculture by Nixon and was still serving in that role under Nixon’s successor President Gerald Ford.
By the night of October 1st, news of Butz’s quip had spread nationwide. Here’s how it was reported in an initial United Press International story:
“Butz had used vulgar words in saying that many blacks don’t vote Republican because they only want good sex, ‘loose shoes’ and ‘a warm place’ when they use the toilet.”
That was the sanitized version of what Butz said.
Don’t read any further if you’re easily offended by (or are too young to be reading) X-rated language — because now I’m going to tell you what Butz really said, as reported by John Dean in his Rolling Stone article.
Pat [Boone] posed a question: “John and I were just discussing the appeal of the Republican party. It seems to me that the party of Abraham Lincoln could and should attract more black people. Why can’t that be done?” This was a fair question for the secretary, who is also a very capable politician.
“I’ll tell you why you can’t attract coloreds,” the secretary proclaimed as his mischievous smile returned. “Because colored only wants three things. You know what they want?” he asked Pat.
Pat shook his head no; so did I.
“I’ll tell you what coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit. That's all!”
Pat gulped twice.
On the morning of October 4, a few days after Dean’s Rolling Stone piece generated a huge hubbub, a UPI article reported that Butz was under pressure to resign but “has no plans to do so ‘at this time.’”
Later that day, faced with scorn and criticism from the White House, Republican Party leaders and just about everyone else (except for the kind of people who would laugh at a joke about “what coloreds want”), Butz resigned.
He told the press: “This was completely my decision” and “at no time was pressure put on me from the White House.”
Which reminds me of the old joke that asks “How do you know when a politician is lying?'”
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