When the White House Gets Mad at the Washington Post

President Truman with daughter Margaret.

On December 5, 1950, President Harry Truman’s daughter, Margaret, an aspiring opera singer, gave a concert at Washington’s Constitution Hall before a glittering audience of 3,500. In the Washington Post the next morning, music critic Paul Hume offered a straightforward opinion. “Miss Truman,” Hume wrote, “cannot sing very well.”

Responding to the Hume review in this note, Truman made no pretense of presidential neutrality, exercising what he later told Margaret was the right to be both a president and a human being.

Hardly an old man, Hume was 34. Westbrook Pegler was a Pulitzer-Prize-winning, often controversial journalist.

The White House
Washington, D.C.

Mr. Hume:

I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an “eight ulcer man or four ulcer pay.”

It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below.

Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman along side you. I hope you’ll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.


—From Letters of the Century, published in 1999 by The Dial Press

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