It was on this date in 1952 that Richard Nixon fused politics and the new technology of television to rescue his political career. Without this speech, we may never have enjoyed one of the greatest presidents of all time. Here is Richard Nixon talking about the Checkers speech many years later. And finally, here is how the Checkers speech inspired Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick speech.
Garry Wills gives a superb account of the Checkers speech in Nixon Agonistes. Wills reminds us that just before Nixon was to give the speech live on television before a huge national audience, Tom Dewey had telephoned Nixon on behalf of Eisenhower and essentially ordered him to resign as the vice presidential candidate at the conclusion. Dewey: “Can I say you have accepted?” Nixon: “You will have to watch the show to see — and tell them [Eisenhower’s advisers] I know something about politics too!”