Spiro Agnew's role in the Nixon White House was to act as its "attack dog," singling out the administration's enemies and targeting them for verbal abuse.
More than anything else, Agnew trained his fire on the American media.
On November 13, 1969, Vice President Agnew delivered a major speech to a Republican gathering in Des Moines, Iowa. In the speech, he blasted the media's coverage of the administration's handling of the war in Vietnam.
You can listen to it here:
In the most famous passage, Agnew complained that there was, in the media, a "concentration of power" in the media, which was "a tiny and closed fraternity of privileged men elected by no one."
While most people remember this speech as an attack on the free press, at the time it had even darker undertones.
For anti-Semites, the "tiny and closed fraternity of privileged men" who controlled the media were clearly, and ominously, Jews.
Here's one report from the ADL:
As more anti-Semites seized upon Agnew's line as confirmation of their conspiracies about the "Jew-Commites on the air," the Nixon White House rushed to distance itself from them.
Most of the media accepted the argument that it had been "wholly unintentional" on Agnew's part.
Of course, these new revelations from @maddow tonight suggest that the anti-Semitism of that speech, and Agnew's other attacks on the media too, might not have been unintentional in the slightest.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't take this chance to note the time Dick Cavett informed the world that "Spiro Agnew" is an anagram of "Grow a Penis."
No, no. You're welcome.
Here's a follow-up thread I did this morning, on the role that Pat Buchanan played in all this -- as the author of Agnew's speech, but also as the politician who carried this anti-Semitic line forward to the current day.
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