|Sen. George McGovern (1968 AP Photo)
The Washington Post's Justin Moyer's story carries the headline, "In confession to historian, George McGovern revealed he had a secret child." Thomas Knock, a history professor at Southern Methodist University, has a biography on McGovern coming out in which he says McGovern confessed to him he had fathered an illegitimate child as an 18-year old freshman at Dakota Wesleyan University during a trip to Lake Mitchell in December 1940 where he got the daughter's mother pregnant. McGovern went on to become a decorated World War II pilot, served in the administration of John F. Kennedy and became a leading liberal in the U.S. Senate who lost the 1972 presidential race to Richard Nixon in a landslide election. He was swept out of office in 1980 when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in a landslide election. He tried to re-enter politics in 1984 when he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination.
McGovern told Knock the mother of his illegitimate daughter had reacted very calmly to the ordeal. She moved to Indiana to live with her older sister and brother-in-law where she gave birth to a daughter, which gave rise to the so-called "Fort Wayne story" that would haunt McGovern the rest of his life. Fort Wayne is where the mother and daughter supposedly lived, although that may be in doubt as discussed below. The mother is also now dead, but Knock has no reason to believe the illegitimate daughter is not still alive. He identifies neither in his upcoming book. What is known is that McGovern eventually met his daughter and brought her gifts. The extent of their relationship over the years or what the daughter thought of McGovern is unclear. McGovern married and had five children of his own and reportedly confessed to his wife the daughter's existence in the 1970s. He made no mention of it in his autobiography, likely out of respect to his wife.
In politics, it's hard to keep such matters a secret. Richard Nixon's White House dirty tricks operatives knew about the illegitimate daughter. Although the issue was not raised during the 1972 presidential election, White House aide H.R. Haldeman had proposed in a memo after the Watergate scandal began consuming the Nixon White House to leak the story to the media in an effort to show that Nixon knew about the story during the campaign but had not brought it up during the presidential campaign because he wanted to run a clean campaign, which history has demonstrated was anything but true. The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wrote about the Haldeman memo in an August 1973 story during the Watergate hearings.
Woodward and Bernstein looked into the story at the time. McGovern told the two young reporters there was a birth certificate in Fort Wayne, Indiana listing him as the father of a young woman, but he denied he was the actual father. The two reporters said they confirmed the existence of the birth certificate and had contacted the birth mother, who denied McGovern was the father of her child. Later stories emerged indicating that McGovern's name had been removed from the birth certificate but an Indiana court refused to release a copy of the birth certificate. How Nixon's operatives learned about the story was unclear, but The Post theorized he learned about it from J. Edgar Hoover's FBI because McGovern's illegitimate child surfaced during a background investigation in 1960 when he was under consideration for a position in the Kennedy administration. According to his FBI file, McGovern did not offer a confirmation or denial regarding the allegation. The Post assumed Nixon never raised the issue during the 1972 campaign because leaked reports of Sen. Tom Eagleton's mental health problems, which forced him off the ticket with McGovern, negated the need to use the story.
The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Jeff Wiehe has a story as well today looking more closely at the Indiana angle. According to Wiehe, the news director of WANE-TV in Fort Wayne had been tipped off at the time McGovern was making a political appearance in the city during the 1972 presidential campaign that he had an illegitimate daughter living there that he might be visiting during the campaign stop. Ken Kurtz told Wiehe that McGovern was already headed out of town by the time he got the tip, and they were never able to track the story down. Kurtz speculated that the station owner's cozy relationship with local Republicans is what led to his news team being offered the tip at the time.
The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel's William Ferguson had more luck with the story. He tracked down the mother's name and even came up with a birth certificate, but the father's name was missing. Ferguson and lawyers for the News-Sentinel claimed the father's name had been illegally removed from the birth certificate. In August 1973, lawyers for the newspaper obtained a court order from a pro tem judge in Allen County, John Rogers, to obtain a copy of the birth record on file with the Indiana Department of Health. The state department fought the release of the order at the time. Wiehe says it's unclear what happened to the birth certificate or whether Ferguson was ever shown the birth certificate. Rogers, who is still practicing law in Fort Wayne, claims to have no memory of issuing the original order for the release of the birth certificate. Yeah, right. Birth certificates are no longer public records in Indiana open to anyone.
Wiehe notes a memoir of a former Democratic presidential campaign operative, Ted Van Dyke, claimed that he had been told by a Terre Haute mayor in 1972 that a man with a Senate badge had come to the record's bureau in the city and taken a copy of a birth certificate pertaining to McGovern's illegitimate daughter. Van Dyke's memoir claimed McGovern had acknowledged the daughter's existence and placed her and her mother in Terre Haute. At the time of the presidential campaign in 1972, the mother was supposedly living in Portland, Oregon. McGovern's campaign had received an anonymous call claiming the story would run the following day in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. That's when McGovern supposedly told his wife about the daughter for the first time and also telephoned her mother in Portland according to Van Dyke. As it turned out, the story never ran.
So after a couple of more head fakes, you learn really nothing more than what has already been written before about a dead senator's illegitimate daughter. You still don't know the names of the mother or daughter, if you cared to know. Personally, I'm more interested in knowing why Barack Obama's birth certificate in Hawaii was forged. I want to know why it falsely claims his father is some guy from Kenya. I want to know why the Hawaii Health Department Director who presented that forged birth certificate to the public was murdered. I want to know why we are told so many lies about our president's family background, including the fact he was raised by operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency. I want to know if his actual mother is a Jewish woman from New York who is still alive. I want to know if she's the same woman, who while using an assumed name, was a part of the same network of agent provocateurs like Bill Ayers who were hired by the CIA to set off bombs at government buildings. I want to know why the entire mainstream media haven't a care in the world that access to all of Obama's records of relevant note are under lock and seal, but thinks we should know everything about a dead senator's illegitimate daughter. Because the mystery that lays in hiding behind all of those questions will reveal to the American people what their government has really become today.
UPDATED: I neglected to point out in my original report that it was the Gannett-owned Argus-Leader in South Dakota that got the ball rolling on this story. Gannett's corporate leaders take their orders from their CIA bosses in Langley, Virginia.