A look back at the anti-Catholic media coverage when JFK ran for President

For all the verbiage heaped on that historic showdown between Kennedy and a fellow senator, Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, a political historian at West Virginia Wesleyan says the religious issue was “exaggerated” by the national media.

In fact, professor Robert Rupp says, when the boyishly handsome Kennedy swept into the mountains out of Massachusetts, the real issue of the day was the economy.

America had been stung by a recession two years earlier and West Virginia found itself particularly damaged, with coal and steel production suffering. The jobless rate was the highest in the nation, and lame-duck President Dwight Eisenhower incurred the wrath of many mired in the deepening recession.

Boarded-up windows in vacated business structures were dubbed “Eisenhower Curtains.”

Yet for all of the misery prevalent in the Mountain State five decades ago, the national media riveted its attention almost exclusively on where Kennedy worshipped.

“It’s obvious that it was exaggerated in terms of the degree of prejudice in the state,” Rupp said in an interview.

“Facts don’t matter. Perceptions. You could make the point that the national press made this into a religious referendum. The way a lot of the newspapers reported it, that was the only angle.”

Rupp pointed to the coverage of a New York Times political correspondent, Bill Lawrence, that implied “a bigot behind every bush” in West Virginia.

Each time he covered a speech by the two Democratic heavyweights, Rupp says, the correspondent “went out and found some bigot that said, ‘I’m not gong to vote some Catholic.’ It was almost bordering on a joke.”

Read more

Leave a comment

No comments yet.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s