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Billygate – 1980

Feeding Frenzy President Jimmy Carter's colorful brother Billy created a major headache for his elder sibling when he became an agent of the government of radical Libya. After three trips to the land of dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Libyans, Billy became the center of a swirling storm of allegations about influence-peddling, and the sea swell quickly engulfed President Carter, then in the midst of a difficult campaign for renomination and reelection.

"Billygate" also generated a press war between Washington, D.C.'s two newspapers, the Post and the Star; each one overdoing the story in a glut of journalistic one-upmanship that subsided only after conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick pointed out the excesses in coverage. The president eventually answered all the serious charges to the satisfaction of both newspapers and most fair-minded observers, but the damage to his reelection bid was substantial.

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© Copyright 1998 Larry J. Sabato

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