Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, died this weekend at 98, leaving a colorfully offensive legacy and, thanks to the political correctness of the mainstream news media, a bit of a mystery as to why he’s died in such ignominy. Those of us of a certain age remember old Earl as one of the evil old squares of the psychotic Nixon administration– but not a criminal— though he was a criminal, gong on to serve time in federal prison for tax evasion— but as an unhinged loose cannon who was forced to give his resignation to Gerald Ford for a racist "joke."
This morning, obits in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times mention that “Mr. Butz was forced to resign in October 1976 after telling a joke that was derogatory to blacks… Two years earlier, Mr. Butz apologized to the Vatican after criticizing the Roman Catholic Church’s stand on birth control by using a mock Italian accent while referring to the pope.”
But these papers of record protect us from the words that had become part of the cultural fabric in the Seventies thanks to Rolling Stone magazine, which in those years was an important political and cultural force itself.
Even Butz’s hometown paper, the Indianapolis Star, which adds to Butz’ legacy by reporting that “he suggested there would be more food for humans if people would stop feeding dogs and cats,” drops the ball in the Pope’s court saying only that Butz made a “birth control joke, involving Pope Paul VI, in a mock Italian accent,” and whitewashes his racist joke as an “infamous gaffe… an off-color joke about blacks, bathrooms and sex, told in private but made public."
It’s bad enough that most of these major newspapers rely on an Associated Press obituary for the man who was the oldest living Cabinet member of any administration (when we now know they all have Britney Spears obits ready to roll), but it’s most disheartening that the average American newspaper reader must finish the story and wonder: "What the Hell did the guy say?" Was he a Don Imus? A Charlie Rose? That chick from the Golf Channel?
Butz was wilder than that. He was one of the foremost casual bigots of our time.
His Papal barb:
he no maka the rules."
Butz uttered the line in a “mock Italian accent” at the 1974 World Food Conference in Rome, making fun of Pope Paul VI’s opposition to "population control.”
A spokesman for New York’s Cardinal Cooke of the New York archdiocese demanded an apology, and the Secretary was reprimanded by the White House, which forced him to apologize. Butz issued a statement saying that he had not "intended to impugn the motives or the integrity of any religious group, ethnic group or religious leader."
His racist quip:
are looking for in life
are tight pussy, loose shoes
and a warm place to shit."
News outlets revealed that Butz had made a racist remark in front of entertainer Pat Boone and former White House counsel John Dean while aboard a commercial flight to California following the Republican National Convention.
The October 18, 1976 issue of Time let the cat out of the bag:
Dean used the line in Rolling Stone, attributing it to an unnamed Cabinet officer. But New Times magazine enterprisingly sleuthed out Butz’s identity by checking the itineraries of all Cabinet members.
Some newspapers published the remark. Others stated only that Butz had said something too obscene to print, and invited their readers to contact the editors if they wanted more information. The San Diego Evening Tribune offered to mail a copy of the whole quotation to anyone who requested it; more than 3,000 readers did.
Butz was forced to resign his cabinet post on October 4, 1976. He became the most sought–after Republican speaker on the lecture and after dinner circuits, and was named dean emeritus of Purdue University’s School of Agriculture.
That’s the story the "mainstream" newspaper editors were protecting all you young voters from.