May 24, 2012
On May 26, 1913, a trial started in Marquette, Michigan. Theodore Roosevelt had sued the editor of the Iron Age newspaper, George Newett, for libel. Accusations of drunkenness had followed Roosevelt throughout the 1912 presidential campaign, rumors which were re-printed and discussed in both Republican and Democratic newspapers. Finally, Roosevelt lost patience. He sued after Newett printed the following:
Roosevelt lies and curses in a most disgusting way; he gets drunk, too, and that not infrequently, and all his intimates know about it. All who oppose him are wreckers of the country, liars, knaves, and undesirables. He alone is pure and entitled to a halo. Rats. For so great a fighter, self-styled, he is the poorest loser we ever knew!
When Roosevelt arrived in Marquette for the trial, he was buoyed by the support he received at the train station. He also had the pleasure of watching Newett’s defense go up in smoke quickly once the trial began. Roosevelt had an impressive array of men come and vouch that he was not a drunkard. The witnesses included Gifford Pinchot, Robert Bacon, Jacob Riis, and TR's cousin Emlen Roosevelt. Newett’s star witness, a journalist who had sworn he’d seen Roosevelt drunk, was forced to flee the country because of grand larceny charges before the start of the trial.
In the end, Newett read a statement of retraction in court and Roosevelt waived damages. The trial had been more about restoring Roosevelt’s good name, damaged by the 1912 presidential campaign, to its former national hero glory.
In a letter to his son Kermit following the end of the trial, Roosevelt noted he was very satisfied with the outcome but wished he could have avoided the expense of it.
Page 1, Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kermit Roosevelt, June 2, 1913. Ms Am 1541.1 (110). Houghton Library. Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.
Dalton, Kathleen. Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life, 2002.