A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 24, 2015
“I know it’s not true, but let’s make the sonafabitch deny it” (a loaded political question)

A classic political story involves a loaded political question. A politician tells his campaign manager to spread the rumor that an opponent has sex with pigs. “We can’t do that. It isn’t true,"the campaign manager protests. ‘I know it’s not true, but let’s make the sonofabitch deny it,” the candidate says. The question only—regardless of any answer—would create doubt in the public’s mind.

The political anecdote has been cited in print since at least 1967. One version states that Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) liked to tell the story about a sheriff’s election in Texas. Another version states that the story involves Lyndon Johnson’s own Texas election.


Google Books
Esquire
Volume 68
1967
Pg. 182:
Some of Johnson’s stories reveal the coarsening, almost brutalizing effect of his years in the slaughterhouse politics of the Lone Star State. One of his favorite jokes concerns a popular Texas sheriff who was running for reelection. The sheriff’s opponents had been trying unsuccessfully to think of a good campaign issue to use against him. Finally, one man suggested that “we spread a rumor that he ----s pigs.” Another protested that “you know he doesn’t do that.” “I know,” said the first man, “but let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”

June 1967, The Realist, pg. 14, col. 3:
It was extremely unlikely that Jackie or Lyndon would bring suit, if only because they would have to concede that what I publish was believable.  Indeed, one of LBJ’s favorite jokes is about a popular Texas sheriff running for re-election.  His opponents have been trying unsuccessfully to think of a good campaign issue to use against him. Finally one man suggests spreading “a rumor that he fucks pigs.” Another protests, “You know he doesn’t do that.” “I know,” says the first man, “but let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”

Google Books
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72
By Hunter S. Thompson
San Francisco, CA: Straight Arrow Books
1973
Pg. 247:
This is one of the oldest and most effective tricks in politics. Every hack in the business has used it in times of trouble, and it has even been elevated to the level of political mythology in a story about one of Lyndon Johnson’s early campaigns in Texas. The race was close and Johnson was getting worried. Finally he told his campaign manager to start a massive rumor campaign about his opponent’s life-long habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows.

“Christ, we can’t get away with calling him a pig-fucker,” the campaign manager protested. “Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that.

“I know,” Johnson replied.  “But let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”

McGovern has not learned to cope with this tactic yet. Humphrey used it again in California, with different issues, and once again George found himself working overtime to deny wild, baseless charges that he was:

Google Books
How to Be a Very Important Person
By James C Humes
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
1979, ©1977
Pg. 51:
“Spread the story,” was the advice, “that as a young man he fornicated with pigs.”

“But we can’t say that!” the aide protested. “It’s just not true!”

“I know,” Johnson allegedly said. “But I’d like to see him figure out how to deny it.”

5 June 1983, Centre Daily Times (State College, PA), “Why We Love Gossip,” by Sam Keen, pg. 5, col. 2:
One of Lyndon Johnson’s favorite stories was about a politician who was in a neck-and-neck race with a rival and had come up with some trick to turn the election. In a moment of inspiration he told his campaign manager, “I’ve got it. We will accuse him of having sexual relations with pigs.” The campaign manager turned white and replied, “We can’t do that. It isn’t true.”

“I know it,” the politician replied, “but I want to hear him deny it.”

The Guardian (UK)
The David Cameron #piggate storm is a sideshow from the real issues. It’s certainly effective
The astonishing allegations about the prime minister and a dead pig are unlikely to be forgotten quickly. I suspect that might be why we’re hearing about them

By Suzanne Moore
Monday 21 September 2015 08.07 EDT
(...)
The pig is the dead cat of the Lynton Crosby theory that was once explained by Boris Johnson, another Bullingdon member. By throwing a dead cat on a dinner table, no one will talk about the issue in hand, which could indeed be how a man like Ashcroft has so much sway, how democracy is bought and sold by these sometime non-doms. Substitute dead cat for dead pig here – or indeed go back to Hunter S Thompson, who once told us while on the campaign trail that this was one of the best tricks in politics, and that he’d seen it used by Lyndon B Johnson. Johnson suggested his opponent had a penchant for “carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows”. His campaign manager said no one would believe it. “I know,” Johnson replied. “But let’s make the sonafabitch deny it.”

The Telegraph (UK)
Is it true that David Cameron had sex with a pig? It really doesn’t matter
Lord Ashcroft’s claims will amuse those who already hate the Prime Minister, but they won’t change anyone’s mind

By James Kirkup
9:34AM BST 21 Sep 2015
There is, as they say, only one story the political world is sniggering about today. In an unambiguously hostile biography of David Cameron, it is reported that as a young man the Prime minister placed his private parts in the mouth of a dead pig. This is said to have been part of an initiation for an aristocratic Oxford University dining club. There is a photograph, it is said.

First, the truth. Is it true? It doesn’t matter. As Lyndon Johnson knew, the real point of accusing your enemy of sex with pigs is to force him to deny it. True or not, the image is so vivid it sticks in the mind, indelibly colouring someone’s reputation. And LBJ was operating in the pre-internet age. Today online debate is emotion first, facts a long-distant second.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Saturday, October 24, 2015 • Permalink