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July 10, 2008
Former President Richard Nixon beat his wife, Pat, before, during, and after their White House years. Along the way, he sucker-punched a long list of aides and others who miffed him.
by Don Fulsom
Richard Nixon was certainly one of our most bared-knuckled political fighters. But probably no other American politician actually punched, pushed, kicked, slapped, shouldered, shoved or upended as many folks who'd ignited—usually without malicious intent—his volcanic temper. The way he repeatedly behaved would land most people behind bars.
Nixon's flying fists were usually dispatched as "sucker punches"—unexpected blows from out of left field when the target's guard was fully down. Nixon threw one such punch at a political aide—and a disabled one at that—nearly 50 years ago. Had that been confirmed at the time, the newspaper headline might have read, "Vice President Assaults Crippled Campaign Consultant." But the punch, which joins myriad evidence of Nixon's violent nature, only became verified in a newly released document from the National Archives.
The incident itself took place in the fading hours of Nixon's bitterly waged, losing 1960 presidential race against Sen. John Kennedy. The day before the election, Nixon put on a four-hour telethon from a Detroit studio. As airtime approached, Nixon became infuriated with TV consultant Everett Hart because Hart had declined to run a last-minute errand for the vice president. Before the aide even considered putting up his dukes, however, the short-fused Nixon let go with a haymaker to Hart's rib cage. One of the aide's arms was shriveled and he was recovering from major cardiac surgery. On loan to the Nixon campaign from a top Madison Avenue ad agency, Hart quit on the spot and refused to ever work for Nixon again.