History Don’t Piss Off Harry Truman
posted by January 30 at 10:23 AMon
Margaret Truman Daniel, daughter of President Harry S. Truman, has died. She was 83.
An accomplished mystery writer and TV personality, Mrs. Daniel was also once a singer.
A curious anecdote from her life was a performance in December of 1950 at the famed Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. The performance did not go well. The next day, Washington Post critic Paul Hume’s review of the show was brutal, containing lines such as:
…Miss Truman cannot sing very well…
…There are few moments during her recital when one can relax and feel confident that she will make her goal, which is to end the song…
…She communicates almost nothing of the music she presents… And yet still the public goes and pays the same price it would for the world’s finest singers…
…[A]s long as Miss Truman sings as she has for three years, and does today, we seem to have no recourse unless it is to omit comment on her programs altogether.
So pissed off was President Truman after reading the review that he dashed off an angry letter to Hume. David McCullough reprinted the letter in his great biography Truman:
Mr. Hume: I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”
It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.
Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need to a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!
[Westbrook] Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you’ll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.
Hume and his editor decided it would be unseemly to print Truman’s letter. But copies had already circulated, and the Washington News, in true tabloid fashion, put the letter on page 1. The resulting scandal filled the letters pages of newspapers across the country — and Mrs. Daniel’s singing career never recovered.