On this day in 1952 Richard Nixon made his “Checkers speech.”
The Checkers speech or Fund speech was an address made on September 23, 1952 by the Republican vice presidential candidate, California Senator Richard Nixon. Nixon had been accused of improprieties relating to a fund established by his backers to reimburse him for his political expenses.
With his place on the Republican ticket in doubt, he flew to Los Angeles and delivered a half-hour television address in which he defended himself, attacked his opponents, and urged the audience to contact the Republican National Committee (RNC) to tell it whether he should remain on the ticket.
During the speech, he stated that regardless of what anyone said, he intended to keep one gift: a black-and-white dog that had been named Checkers by the Nixon children, thus giving the address its popular name.
Nixon, as he related in his address, came from a family of moderate means, and had spent much of his time after law school either in the military, campaigning for office, or serving in Congress.
After his successful 1950 Senate campaign, Nixon’s backers continued to raise money to finance his political activities. These contributions went to reimburse him for travel costs, postage for political mailings which he did not have franked, and similar expenses.
Such a fund was not illegal at the time, but as Nixon had made a point of attacking government corruption, it exposed him to charges he might be giving special favours to the contributors.