Senator Nixon’s Checkers Speech

Nixon was one of the first politicians to use the medium of television to defend himself against accusations of wrong-doing.

This speech came during the 1952 presidential election campaign. Senator Nixon was Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice-presidential running mate. Accused of accepting illegal gifts, Nixon used his television appearance to deny the allegations and outline his personal financial circumstances.

Nixon referred to a cocker spaniel dog his family had been given. Black and white spotted, they called 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.”

The address thereafter became known as the Checkers speech.

At the election six weeks later, the Republican Eisenhower-Nixon ticket defeated the Democratic ticket of Adlai Stevenson II and John Sparkman. Nixon became vice-president on January 20, 1953.

  • Watch Nixon’s speech in full (30m)

Text of Senator Richard Nixon’s Checkers speech.

My Fellow Americans:

I come before you tonight as a candidate for the Vice Presidency and as a man whose honesty and integrity have been questioned.

The usual political thing to do when charges are made against you is to either ignore them or to deny them without giving details.

I believe we’ve had enough of that in the United States, particularly with the present Administration in Washington, D.C. To me the office of the Vice Presidency of the United States is a great office and I feel that the people have got to have confidence in the integrity of the men who run for that office and who might obtain it.

I have a theory, too, that the best and only answer to a smear or to an honest misunderstanding of the facts is to tell the truth. And that’s why I’m here tonight. I want to tell you my side of the case.

I am sure that you have read the charge and you’ve heard that I, Senator Nixon, took $18,000 from a group of my supporters.

Now, was that wrong? And let me say that it was wrong—I’m saying, incidentally, that it was wrong and not just illegal. Because it isn’t a question of whether it was legal or illegal, that isn’t enough. The question is, was it morally wrong? [Read more…]