Canuck Letter

Canuck Letter

The Canuck Letter was a forged letter to the editor of the "Manchester Union Leader", published February 24 1972, two weeks before the New Hampshire primary of the 1972 United States presidential election. It implied that Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, a candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, held prejudice against Americans of French-Canadian descent. The letter's immediate effect was to compel the candidate to give a speech in front of the newspaper's offices, known simply as "the crying speech." The letter's indirect effect was the implosion of Muskie's candidacy.

In childish scrawl, and with poor spelling, the author claimed to have met Muskie and his staff in Florida. The author alleges to have asked Muskie how he could understand the problems of African Americans, given Maine's small black population. According to the letter, a member of Muskie's staff then responded, "Not blacks, but we have Canucks" — which the letter spells "Cannocks" — and Muskie laughed at the remark.

The crying speech

On the night of March 4, the Saturday before the March 7 primary, Muskie delivered a speech in front of the offices of the "Union Leader", calling its publisher, William Loeb, a liar and lambasting him for impugning the character of Muskie's wife, Jane. Newspapers reported that Muskie cried openly: David Broder of the "Washington Post" had it that Muskie "broke down three times in as many minutes,"; David Nyhan of the "Boston Globe" had Muskie "weeping silently." The "CBS Evening News" showed Muskie's face contorted with emotion. Muskie maintained that if his voice cracked, it cracked from anger; Muskie's antagonist was the same editor who referred to him in the 1968 election as "Moscow Muskie," and called him a flip-flopper. The tears, Muskie claimed, were actually snow melting on his face. Jim Naughton of "The New York Times", standing immediately at Muskie's feet, could not confirm that Muskie cried.


Whether true or false, fear of Muskie's unstable emotional condition led some New Hampshire Democrats to defect to George McGovern. Muskie's winning margin, 46% to McGovern's 37%, was smaller than his campaign had predicted. The bounce and second-place finish led the McGovern campaign to boast of its momentum. In May 1971, Muskie was the frontrunner, running eight points ahead of Nixon; by the time of the Florida primary, with McGovern clearing other left-leaning candidates from the field, Muskie's campaign was dead.

"Washington Post" staff writer Marilyn Berger reported that Nixon White House staffer Ken Clawson had bragged to her about authoring the letter. Clawson denied Berger's account. In October 1972, FBI investigators asserted that the Canuck Letter was part of the dirty tricks campaign against Democrats orchestrated by the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). Fact|date=September 2008Loeb, the publisher of the "Manchester Union Leader", maintained that the letter was not a fabrication. Loeb later admitted of some doubt, however, after receiving another letter claiming that someone had been paid $1,000 to write the Canuck Letter. The purported author, Paul Morrison of Deerfield Beach, Florida, was never found.

The authorship of the letter is covered at length, in the book and the film, "All the President's Men".

ee also

*Donald Segretti
*Dirty tricks


* [ "FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats," "Washington Post."October 10, 1972.]
* [ David Broder, "The Story That Still Nags at Me -- Edmund S. Muskie," "Washington Monthly." February 1987.]
* [,10987,907212,00.html?internalid=ACA "Nixon's Nightmare: Fighting to be Believed," "Time." May 14, 1973.]
*Theodore H. White, "The Making of the President 1972."

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