Richard Nixon and the Talk Radio Host Who Made His Political Rise Happen
This week marks two key events in the political life of Richard Nixon — whose political career was largely made by talk radio host Fulton Lewis Jr., the Rush Limbaugh of his day.
On July 24, 1959 Vice President Nixon was in his famous “kitchen debate” with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. On July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee proposed articles of impeachment against President Nixon before he ultimately resigned over the Watergate scandal.
The Right Frequency details how Lewis, a towering conservative media figure in the 1940s and 1950s pushed Nixon, a California senator known mostly for his anti-communism in Congress, into the national spotlight.
Below is an excerpt from The Right Frequency.
Fulton Lewis Jr., like others on the right, had misgivings about Dwight D. Eisenhower’s moderate brand of Republicanism. But he was delighted with Eisenhower’s choice of a running mate, California Senator Richard Nixon, a man with strong anti-communist credentials from his HUAC days.
Lewis had frequently entertained Nixon at his 275-acre Maryland ranch. After Nixon was officially nominated for vice president at the 1952 Republican National Convention in Chicago, he hugged Lewis and said, “Except for you Fulton, it never would have happened.”
That may also be true of Nixon remaining on the ticket. Though Nixon helped himself with the famous “Checkers speech,” Lewis was also a staunch defender of the VP nominee when Eisenhower considered dropping him from the ticket after revelations that businessmen were financing his personal expenses, which would violate Senate ethics rules on gifts and possibly the law. Lewis urged his listeners to contact Eisenhower’s campaign and demand that Nixon remain on the ticket.
His attitude toward Eisenhower: “A man morally fitted for his job, certainly and emotionally in so far that he in—in so far as he intends sincerely to do a good job,” compared to enthusiastically saying, “Dick Nixon is a young, very aggressive, probably the best trained man that has ever stood in possible line for the Presidency. A very sincere individual, a very fine, clean, family man and an ardent anti-communist.”