Where does Rick Santorum's anti-reporter cussing rank in the all-time great politician-reporter cuss outs? Not very high. Santorum bragged that calling a New York Times reporters' question "bullshit" showed he was an authentic conservative -- "If you haven’t cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you’re not a real Republican." But the greatest hits of anti-reporter swears crosses bipartisan lines. And Santorum's is one of the weakest. Here's our ranking of the meanest anti-reporter swears:
President: Lyndon Johnson
Cuss: In August 1965, CBS News reported that American Marines had set fire to the Vietnamese village Cam Ne. The day after the video aired, CBS News president Frank Standon got an early-morning phone call. "Frank, are you trying to fuck me?" the caller yelled. "Who is this?" Stanton asked. Lyndon Johnson replied, "Frank, this is your president, and yesterday your boys shat on the American flag."
Cuss intensity score: High. Johnson used multiple swears while personally contacting the reporter and accusing him of treason. This altercation was private, however, so Johnson loses some points for his cuss performance.
Candidate: John McCain
Cuss: This technically wasn't a cursing incident, but it was a moment of intense conflict. Aboard the campaign plane in 2008, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller asked John McCain about the time John Kerry asked him to be his running mate in 2004, a conversation McCain had repeatedly denied. Bumiller eventually asked McCain, "Can I ask you about your ... Why you’re so angry?"
Cuss-out intensity score: Medium. No words required bleeps -- surprising given McCain's long, well-documented history of requiring bleeping -- but McCain did try to humiliate the reporter in front of her peers, and on tape.
Candidate: George W. Bush
Cuss: “There’s Adam Clymer -- major league asshole -- from the New York Times,” Bush told Dick Cheney at a Labor Day event in 2000. "Big time," Cheney agreed.
Cuss-out intensity score: Medium-low. It was a hot mike moment, and "major league asshole" is catchy enough to be worn as a badge of honor.
Candidate: Richard Nixon
Cuss: In his last press conference in 1960 -- which obviously wasn't actually his last -- Nixon made sure reporters knew what jerks he thought they were. "Just think how much you're going to be missing. You don't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference, and I hope that what I have said today will at least make television, radio, the press recognize that they have a right and a responsibility, if they're against a candidate give him the shaft, but also recognize if they give him the shaft, put one lonely reporter on the campaign who'll report what the candidate says now and then."
Cuss-out intensity score: Low. The cuss was spread over a whole group of reporters, and Nixon looked like a sore loser. Also, there remains a debate over whether "to get the shaft" is dirty. Online Etymology Dictionary says, "Vulgar slang meaning "penis" first recorded 1719. Verb meaning "treat cruelly and unfairly" is by 1958, probably with overtones of sodomy."
Candidate: the press secretary of George H.W. Bush
Cuss: "I'm sick of all you lazy bastards," Bush press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said in March 1992.
Cuss-out intensity score: Low. The swear attacked the reporters and their professionalism, but it was not hurled by the candidate himself. And Fitzwater apologized "for the bad language" afterward.
How does Santorum's cuss rank? We say low: There was a single bad word, which referred to the reporter's question but not the reporter himself.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.