Even in Death, Silence About Thomas Eagleton

The death last week of former Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton, was marked by obituaries notable for what they didn’t say.
In what became known as “The Eagleton Affair,” Eagleton got dumped as the 1972 Democratic nominee for Vice President when it emerged that he had checked himself into the hospital for psychiatric treatment, including shock treatment, during the 1960s, due to “nervous exhaustion.” In this age of pop psychiatry and Prozac, it’s hard to believe that a political career would suffer much by such a revelation. In 1972, however, it was enough to force George McGovern to cut him loose.
Media accounts, including in such relatively liberal outlets as NPR and PBS, mentioned the revelation of Eagleton’s psychiatric treatment in the passive voice: “When it was revealed that…” “When it came out that…”
Strictly speaking, a pair of reporters working for the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain broke the story. But how’d they find out the information in the first place?
The answer, of course, was that the Republicans’ infamous “dirty tricks” operatives. Confidential medical records were stolen by Nixon’s henchmen and leaked. But now that’s just history.

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