Today “Liberal Republican” is an oxymoron, but in the 70s and the 80s, they did exist, Nelson Rockefeller was their leader. Elected four times as governor and one of America’s wealthiest politicians, Rockefeller resigned in 1973 to devote all of his time to a potential presidential run in 1976. But when Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned in disgrace after pleading guilty to not paying taxes, Rockefeller called Nixon and asked for the vice presidency.
Nixon decided instead to appoint House Minority Leader and Michigan congressman Gerald Ford. After Nixon’s resignation Gerald Ford was sworn in as President. Ford offered the Vice Presidency to Rockefeller. Knowing that he would not be the nominee for president in 1976, Rockefeller relaxed and enjoyed his duties as vice president. This attitude was caught on camera, above in Binghamton, NY.; A heckler was shouting insults and Rockefeller leaned over the podium and gave him the finger. The picture appeared in newspaper across the nation, the public opinion was divided: some criticizing it as a crude gesture, but others admitting that it was nice to see politician who wasn’t afraid to show just what he really meant.
Shortly after taking office both Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Rockefeller had been diagnosed with cancer and had to have mastectomies. It was major headline news and focused the nations attention on the dangers of breast cancer. Then when California’s former two-term governor Ronald Reagan announced that he would be a candidate for the Republican nomination, Ford had to appease the conservatives, and replace Rockefeller was replaced on the ticket with Senator Robert Dole of Kansas. It was a rally for Dole in Binghamton that Rockefeller hold up his middle finger with ‘sneering, Satanic expression’. For him, not running for reelection again, the defiant middle finger was a kind of declaration of independence freeing him from the unspoken rule that politicians must always flatter the audience and ignore the hecklers.
He retired soon after; Rockefeller could have died with the respect, but it was reported that his fatal heart attack was induced by a more than the usual late night ‘office work’ with a young female associate.
12 thoughts on “Rockefeller gives Middle Finger”
Happy Rockefeller is still alive. She is a breast cancer survivor.
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[…] American Vice President and Republican, Norman Rockefeller expresses his views to a heckler in 1976. Sometimes it seems that Republicans have all the fun since they aren’t caught up trying to be sincere. Other moments in history available over at the Iconic Photo Blog. […]
It’s a great photo – for many years, Nelson used to sign copies of the photos when people would ask for an autograph. His staff finally convinced him to stop.
I have a few points that I would like to clarify in your narrative:
“Rockefeller called Nixon and asked for the vice presidency.”
This is not true. Nelson and Nixon did not get along and Nelson would never have called Nixon. Nor would Nixon have chosen Rockefeller as he clearly needed “impeachment insurance” – someone who would not be more attractive than Nixon if (and when) Watergate broke.
Further, Nelson tried very hard to avoid being selected as vice president. He still wanted to run for the presidency in 1976 (or perhaps 1980). He chafed in the office of vice president and to an extent, felt marginalized in the office. This was of course, painfully brought home when he was dumped off the ticket at the request of conservative Republicans. Had Nelson been kept on the ticket, they might have carried New York in the election and defeated Jimmy Carter. Supposedly, on Election Night, flying home, there was a fight on the campaign plane where they were all throwing peanuts at one another.
Finally, Happy was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after Nelson was nominated as vice president. In fact, he would spend the day testifying before Congress and then would go to the hospital, where Happy was recuperating from her surgery.
I worked for several years at the Rockefeller Archive Center, where the Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers are maintained. Here are a few links for you:
Click to access narchron.pdf
The Rockefeller ‘Finger’ Photo is an ICONIC representation of Americana and ranks up there with the Iwo Jimi Flag Raising, Nixon Peace Symbols photo as he resigned the presidency and the American Flag on the moon. I once had an evil Romainian Boss who attended one of my classes and HECKELED IT every five minutes (She made an ASS out of herself,
EVERYONE CAME UP TO ME AFTERWORDS to APPOLIGIZE FOR HER BEHAVIOUR, including her peers). My middle finger was literally ‘THROBBING’ to be freed from my clinched fist and pointed in her direction.
Nelson put his tongue in his cheek and thought a.) I’m a Rockefeller and I am richer that God…Why should I put up with this b.) This VP job sucks c.) I aint going to run for VP again and d.) See a.)!!!
Nelson ‘Freed’ his finger and with the freedom only given to God’s most intermost Angels (or that of a typical spoiled American Five Year Old) ‘let it all hang out’. I was there. I saw the finger and CHEERED!!! Bravo Rocky. He lived as he died—Knocking heads and knocking boots!!!
He was a great man, and really built up NY State. Except for the drug laws which turned out be draconian, most of what he did still benefits the residents of NY State pretty well.
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[…] Rockefeller, vice-président des États-Unis, lève son majeur en guise réponse à des manifestants contre la guerre au Vietnam en […]
liberal Republican is an oxymoron these days? you’re kidding, right? ever heard of Susan Collins? Olympia Snowe? Dick Lugar? Or any of the rest of the breed commonly referred to as RINO’s? That the term “liberal Republican” is NOT an oxymoron these days is precisely what’s wrong with the party.
He was giving me the finger from The Crown Centre Hotel in Kansas City, 1976 as I stood at eye level and addressed him from on top of a school bus on the grass in Penn Valley Park across the street from his hotel. I was protesting with the Yippies – Youth International Party. I explain why he gave it to me in my Blog
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
September 1, 2013
i am a witness to rocky flipping the bird
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What could you suggest in regards to your put up that you simply made some days in the past?