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Thomas Eagleton's Mental Health – 1972

Feeding Frenzy Democratic nominee George S. McGovern's presidential hopes virtually evaporated when it was revealed shortly after the party convention that his newly chosen vice presidential running mate, Missouri U.S. Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton, had been hospitalized on three occasions for depression and had undergone electroshock therapy.

Eagleton had kept the explosive information from McGovern at the convention, but too many Missouri politicians and others knew about his secret for it to be kept under wraps. An anonymous tip about Eagleton's past to the Detroit Free Press began the chain of events that eventually brought the Democrat's episodes to public view.

The least responsible coverage of the ensuing frenzy was provided by columnist Jack Anderson, who falsely reported a half-dozen Eagleton "arrests" for drunk driving and other traffic offenses based on a questionable and unverified tip. Anderson's gross breach of journalistic ethics in printing unproven gossip generated some sympathy for Eagleton, but it could not save him.

Under pressure from McGovern and many senior Democrats, Eagleton withdrew from the ticket, but not before McGovern had swallowed a suicide pill by declaring himself to be "1,000 percent" behind his doomed partner.

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© Copyright 1998 Larry J. Sabato

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