The Dog Days of Presidential Campaigns: FDR Defends his Pet Terrier from Republican Political Attack

On this day in history, 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed a gathering of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union members at a campaign dinner. After discussing labor issues and the progress America was making in the prosecution of the war, he took a few minutes to defend the honor of his pet Scottish terrier, Fala, who had been defamed in Republican political attack ads aimed at the president.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Fala had been given to President Roosevelt by his cousin, Margaret Suckey, in 1940, when still a puppy. Roosevelt had become attached to the dog, and Fala regularly sat with him as he worked in the Oval Office, and frequently traveled with him on official state visits, as when Roosevelt met with Winston Churchill in Newfoundland in 1941.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

As the 1944 presidential elections neared and it appeared that the Democratic incumbent would probably win another landslide election, Republican political operatives circulated a story aimed at attacking Roosevelt through his pet. FDR’s opponents claimed that after allegedly leaving the pet behind during a trip to the Aleutian Islands, the president had dispatched a Navy destroyer—at taxpayer expense of $20 million dollars—to reclaim the dog.

At the Teamster Union dinner meeting, Roosevelt objected to such “libelous statements about my dog,” and called the Republican attempt to sully the reputation of a defenseless dog a desperate act designed to distract the American electorate from more important issues.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

The images used in this post about a presidential pet come from a satire titled, The Ordeal of Oliver Airdale, or, To the Dogs and Back. Written and illustrated by D. T. Carlisle and published just before America’s entry in the Second World War in 1941, the “satire with teeth in it” reimagines American civilization from colonial times to the outbreak of World War II from the perspective of dogs.

In the story, Oliver Airdale, (an obvious stand in for FDR), watches with anxiety the rise to power of Der Pootsch (Adolf Hitler).

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Even as the Skye Terrier (Charles Lindbergh) and other “America First”-ers preach appeasement and trick other “whelps” into remaining oblivious to the danger posed by the “hounds of Hundia” (Nazi Germany), Oliver Airdale remains steadfast in his stance and drives Der Pootsch from the scene.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

~ by "The Chief" on September 23, 2016.

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