Facts about Checkers
Checkers, a cocker spaniel who belonged to Republican vice-presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon, remains one of the most famous dogs in political history.
Nixon was the running mate of GOP candidate Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, and had been accused of taking money from a secret political slush fund. Nixon gave a televised address on September 23, 1952 to deny the charge, insisting that the only gift he’d accepted was the family dog, Checkers, from a Texas admirer. The key part of Nixon’s speech went like this:
One other thing I probably should tell you because if we don’t they’ll probably be saying this about me too, we did get something—a gift—after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was?
It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he’d sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl—Tricia, the 6-year-old—named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.
It was a crafty bit of misdirection, but it was also a hit with the public. The speech saved Nixon’s place as ‘s running mate, and soon became known as “the Checkers speech.” (It is also known as the “cloth coat speech” due to Nixon’s comment that his wife Pat wore only a “respectable Republican cloth coat.”)
Today the speech is recalled whenever a politician gives an emotional public defense of his or her actions.
The man who sent Checkers to the Nixons was Lou Carrol, later described by The New York Times as “an unknown traveling salesman from Texas.”