Nicknames for politicians can become powerful symbols in the media. Over the years we’ve come to know “Honest Abe” Lincoln, “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson, “FDR” Franklin Roosevelt, “Give ’em Hell” Harry Truman, “Ike” Dwight Eisenhower, “Tricky Dick” Richard Nixon, “The Great Communicator” Ronald Reagan and “Slick Willie” Bill Clinton.
Today, “The Donald,” President Donald J. Trump has masterfully used this strategy to his advantage. Immediately we get a meaningful image in our minds when we hear “Creepy Joe.” “Crooked Hillary,” “Pocahontas,” “Leakin’ James” Comey, “Cheatin’ Obama,” “High Tax-High Crime Nancy” and “Low IQ Maxine” Waters.
Where did it all begin?
Long before we heard the lies and nonsense of people like Jim Acosta or Don Lemon who call themselves reporters, there was “The Zenger Case.”
Most Americans today have never heard of it. In fact only a few of the many journalists I know even know about this trial. You have to search all the way back to 1733 to understand it’s importance.
It’s significant because it is accepted by most historians as the establishment of freedom of the press in America.
After John Peter Zenger, publisher of a paper called the “New York Weekly Journal” allowed a series of articles to run in his paper criticizing the Royal Governor of New York, William S. Cosby, he was charged with libel and thrown in jail.
A well-known Philadelphia attorney named Andrew Hamilton (not Alexander Hamilton) offered to defend Zenger.
Andrew Hamilton was a close ally of Benjamin Franklin throughout the 1730s. Franklin was by now the proprietor of his own newspaper. So he had an interest in the outcome of the New York case.
At the end of the trial, Andrew gave an emotional closing that is considered by some to be that greatest argument ever made for the necessity of a free press.
Though instructed by the Judge to rule only on whether Zenger was guilty of printing the material—not whether the material was true—the jury comes back with the verdict “not guilty.”
A standing ovation of “Hurrahs” filled the courtroom. From that point on, dissenting papers across the colonies operated with little to no intervention from the government.
This paved the way to the American Revolution, with two rivaling national political factions in America for the first time: the Whigs (Patriots) and Tories (Loyalist). Both depended on the press to campaign for popular support.
Patriots like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine gained prominence after writing anti-British pamphlets. These essays were widely-circulated to garner support for war.
On top of being a bloody, physical struggle for independence, this war was in many senses, a war of information. There is a long history of punishing dissidents by European tyrants.
Because of this the “Patriots” established freedom press in the Articles of Confederation before they even established their sovereignty through winning the war via the Continental Congress.
To hold the nation together, having a free press was their highest priority. It was of the highest priority to them. As a new constitution was being drafted and being debated in the public sphere, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay famously applied the press to convince the public of the integrity of the document called The Federalist Papers.
After it was ratified, establishing a free press, again, become the highest priority, as it was the first amendment added to the new United States Constitution in our sacred the Bill of Rights.
Eventually, two new political parties emerged: the Federalist and the Democratic-Republicans.
They paid for writers, or “hired guns,” for propaganda. James Thomson Callender, of the Richmond Examiner, became rich printing slanderous articles about the President Adams. He called Adams a ”repulsive pedant,” a “gross hypocrite,” and “one of the most egregious fools upon the continent.”
Others accused Thomas Jefferson of being an atheist. Luther Baldwin was arrested at a parade the President attended when referring to a liberty pole, he wrote. “I hope it hit Adams in the arse!“
The first fist-fight in Congress, in 1798, started Mathew Lyon former journalist turned politician purposely ignored fellow representative Roger Griswold as he was trying to get his attention.
Griswold became increasingly frustrated and screamed “Scoundrel!” (A profane word for the time).
When Lyons challenged Griswold to a fight, Griswold asked him if had brought his “wooden sword” (a reference to Lyons being dismissed from duty in the Revolution.)
Outraged, Lyons spit a mouth full of chewing tobacco on Griswold. Violence overtook the room. From that point on Lyon would be known in the press as the “Spitting Lyon.”
Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.
As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.
He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.