Documents released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and the first black major-party candidate for president, reveal that in 1973, the FBI investigated a smear campaign concerning Chisholm as a part of their Watergate investigation.
The “fake news release” as the Bureau termed it was typed on fellow presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey’s official stationery, and described Chisholm as mentally ill and sexually deviant. The document was sent to numerous news outlets in California, including, Ebony Magazine, Jet, and the Associated Press, though no outlet appeared to publish information from the release.
Chisholm was included on Nixon’s master list of political opponents, better known as the “Enemies List”. The original list had a section reserved for black Congress members (in fact including every black official in Congress), with Chisholm’s name at the top.
While investigating the Chisholm smear, the Bureau looked into another fake news release from the Humphrey campaign that claimed presidential candidate Edward Muskie had used the term “Canuck.” The alleged authors of the “Canuck letter,” as it came to be known, were Ken Clawson, a former Washington Post reporter and White House spokesman for Nixon, and Donald K. Segretti, who worked on Nixon’s national presidential reelection campaign.
This wasn’t the even the first fake press release manufactured during Watergate, however. Segretti and George H. Hearing, a Tampa accountant, were both charged with political espionage for manufacturing yet another a news release sent on official Muskie campaign stationery that labeled Humphrey and presidential candidate Henry Jackson as sexual predators.
Staffers for Humphrey’s campaign recalled a possible break-in at the Los Angeles office, where a closet containing official campaign stationery had its locked door torn off its hinges, though the Bureau could not confirm that an actual break-in had occurred.
Additional requests are being filed by MuckRock regarding the FBI’s investigation into Watergate and the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). In the meantime, read the full request here, and check out MuckRock’s other articles on Watergate.
Read the full file, which includes a clipping of Pyle’s article, embedded below, or on the request page.
Image by Roger Higgins via Wikimedia Commons