March 27, 2016

Smearing Presidential Candidates' Wives Historically Normal

Clockwise from top left: Heidi Cruz, Melania Trump, Mary Todd Lincoln and Dolley Madison.
Photo: Clockwise from top left: Getty Images; AP; Getty Images; Getty Images

[From article]
A super PAC supporting Ted Cruz kicked things off by tweeting an old photo of Donald Trump’s wife, during her modeling days, lying naked on a fur rug. Trump threatened to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and retweeted an image mocking her appearance.
[. . .]
While a bit shocking, it isn’t really a new low for presidential races. Politics has always been a dirty business for male candidates’ wives, going all the way back to the country’s early days.
[. . .]
“It was terrible what these [earlier politicians] were doing to each other,” says Cormac O’Brien, author of “Secret Lives of the First Ladies.” “There was a tradition in politics for a long time of spreading half-truths and lies. People would be shocked by how bad it was.”
According to National First Ladies’ Library historian Carl Anthony, the first smear campaign aimed at a first lady came way back in 1808.
Federalist candidate Charles C. Pinckney “circulated the tale that the Democratic-Republican candidate James Madison had made wife Dolley Madison sexually available to the widowed incumbent President Thomas Jefferson for his endorsement, turning her into, well, a political whore,” Anthony wrote on his Web site.
[. . .]
Mary Todd Lincoln became a particularly polarizing figure due to her Southern roots. She was from slave-holding Kentucky, and her family fought for the Confederacy, leading those above the Mason-Dixon to question her loyalty and those below to call her a traitor.
[. . .]
Frances Cleveland, who married incumbent president Grover Cleveland in 1886, was the victim of rumors she was cheating on her husband after she appeared at the theater one night with a male escort. There were also whispers Grover beat her.
[. . .]
in 1896, opponents of William McKinley spread tales that there was something mentally off with his wife, Ida, and that she was insane and confined to an institution. In truth, she had epilepsy.
[. . .]
Considering our nation’s long, dirty political history, it’s no surprise that Cruz’s supporters and Trump consider wives fair game.
Of course, should Hillary Clinton win the election, First Hubby Bill is likely to get it worse than any first lady ever did.

Smearing presidential candidates’ wives is totally normal
By Reed Tucker
New York Post
March 27, 2016 | 5:12am

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