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On His "Checkers" Speech 67 Years Ago, Nixon Introduced His Famous Cocker Spaniel

Every year, September 23 is designated National Dogs in Politics Day, which is also known as Checkers Day. Why Checkers? Because this day is the anniversary of a very famous pre-presidential Richard Nixon speech that introduced America to the best-known presidential dog to never have lived in the white house. Story Via: Presidential Pet Museum.



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    Although Nixon’s cocker spaniel never lived in the White House, Checkers became quite a celebrity after then-Senator Nixon mentioned the dog in a televised speech on Sept. 23, 1952.

    Photograph - WTRT CBS

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    Nixon used the new medium of TV to take his case to the people to deny any alleged misuse of $18,000 in campaign contributions.

    Black-and-white

    The press learned of the fund two months after Gen. Dwight Eisenhower selected Nixon as his running mate, and a controversy developed that threatened the Republican presidential ticket. In a 30-minute address paid for by the Republican National Committee, Nixon defended himself, outlined his modest financial means and went on the offense against his opponents. 



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    The most famous part of the speech, however — and what may have saved his candidacy because of the chord it struck with the American people — was about Checkers.

    Photograph

    Nixon explained that no matter what happened as a result of the controversy, his young daughters, Julie and Tricia, were keeping one campaign gift: a black-and-white puppy from a supporter in Texas.




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    However it was not his use of financial details that led to this speech becoming one of the most celebrated in US history, rather it was the introduction of Checkers, the Cocker Spaniel, to the public which made it memorable.

    Photograph

    The Checkers speech, as it came to be known, much to Nixon's chagrin, was the first time a politician used TV to appeal to the voters — though the speech recalled Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech about Fala eight years prior. Not only did Nixon stay on the ticket, but he and Eisenhower swept the election that November. Nixon, of course, eventually went on to become president and became embroiled in another, much bigger scandal that eventually ended with his resignation.

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