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Fw: TR's libel suit

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  • John A. Gable
    We received a query today about TR suing someone for calling him a drunk. Perhaps this will interest you, but I am sure most of you know all about this. John
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2003
      We received a query today about TR suing someone for calling him a drunk.
      Perhaps this will interest you, but I am sure most of you know all about this.
                                    John
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2003 6:40 PM
      Subject: TR's libel suit

                                                         The 1913 Libel Trial
            In response to your query,  in 1913 Theodore Roosevelt sued George A. Newett, editor of the Iron Ore  (newspaper) of Ishpeming, Michigan for libel for writing: "Roosevelt lies and curses in a most disgusting way, and he gets drunk, too, and that not infrequently, and all of his intimates know about it."
       
            There was an old and widespread fable out there that TR was a drunkard. He was, of course, a very moderate drinker, and after some drinking as a college boy, I know of no instance when he was drunk.  It seems TR's strenuosity, his animation, his ebullient personality, caused some to suppose TR was a drunk or a heavy drinker. Certainly, he did not curse or swear.  Thinking it over, I can point to two times when he cursed. One was when they drowned his horse at Daiquiri !  The other was when he read some public statement made by Wilson . Now, perhaps there were other times, but the testimony is that TR was very clean in speech and other habits.
       
            The 1913 law suit was the result of collecting instances of libel in newspapers during the 1912 campaign.  I have seen some of the cases in the TR Papers. Front page stories that TR was seen drunk here or there!  A Socialist cartoon showing TR as a drunken Rough Rider with a bottle in hand.  The Michigan paper was selected for the suit.  The idea was to lay this slander to rest for once and all time.
       
            Among those who testified as to TR's temperance and good character were
      Jacob Riis, physicians, a secret service agent, fellow hunters, a classmate at Harvard who later served as Secretary of State  (Bob Bacon), General Leonard Wood, Admiral George Dewey, Gifford Pinchot, and Lyman Abbott. Newett could find no witnesses and had no evidence. He weakly pleaded that he had heard the stories and gossip all over the place.  TR sued for the minimum allowed under Michigan law, six cents. He was vindicated in the jury trial.
              
          TR had been shot in October 1912; Ethel got married in 1913; and the trial in Marquette,  Michigan happened in 1913.  TR told his old newspaper friend O.K. Davis:  "Never have a daughter married, get shot, and prosecute a libel suit all in one year. They're all very expensive proceedings."
       
                                                        John A. Gable
      Executive Director, Theodore Roosevelt Association, Oyster Bay, Long Island                                  
          
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