NIXON, Richard M. Signed speech text inscribed and signed ("Dick Nixon"), inscribed to staff aide, "Ward McConnell with appreciation and best wishes." Address of Senator Richard M. Nixon, Los Angeles, California, 23 September 1952. 14 pages, folio, inscribed at top left corner of first page.
"IT WAS A LITTLE COCKER SPANIEL DOG...AND I JUST WANT TO SAY THIS RIGHT NOW, THAT REGARDLESS OF WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT IT, WE ARE GOING TO KEEP HIM."
A SIGNED AND INSCRIBED COPY OF THE CHECKERS SPEECH. Nixon was on the ropes: charges that he received $18,000 from wealthy campaign donors threatened to knock him off the GOP ticket as Eisenhower's running mate. Many party leaders urged Ike to throw Nixon overboard, and the general, never a great admirer of Nixon before or afterwards, was inclined to agree. But he decided to hear out Nixon along with the rest of America when the embattled nominee took to the airwaves at 6:30 p.m. on 23 September.
Nixon demolishes the corruption charge by quoting the independent audit carried out by Price Waterhouse and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher: the money was all used for legitimate campaign expenses, and none of it was diverted to Nixon's private use, or could be considered taxable income. But Nixon doesn't stop there. To prove that he has never enriched himself in public life, he launches into a remarkable recitation of his entire financial history, starting from when he married his wife Pat in 1940. He lists all of his assets--his $15,000 annual salary as a Senator, a $41,000 house in Washington, a $13,000 home in Whittier; "I have just $4,000 in life insurance, plus my GI policy...I own a 1950 Oldsmobile car." He then declares all his debts: the mortgages on the two houses, $3,500 he borrowed from his parents, a $4,500 bank loan and $500 borrowed against his life insurance. "Well, that's about it. That's what we have, and that's what we owe. It isn't very much, but Pat and I have the satisfaction that every dime that we have got is honestly ours. I should say this, that Pat doesn't have a mink coat, but she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat; and I always tell her that she'd look good in anything."
Then he makes this admission: "We did get something, a gift, after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog; and, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from the Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us...You know what it was? It was a little Cocker Spaniel dog...black and white spotted, and our little girl, Tricia, the six-year old, named it 'Checkers.' And, you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog; and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep him."
He challenges Adlai Stevenson and his running mate to "come before the American people as I have, and make a complete financial statement as to their financial history." Eisenhower didn't like hearing that. If Stevenson had to bare his financial soul than so would Ike! Nixon concludes by telling the public to write or wire the Republican National Committee to let them know whether they, the American people, wanted Dick Nixon to stay on the ticket. He promised to abide by whatever they decided. A torrent of mail came in supporting Nixon, and Eisenhower kept him on.