John F. Kennedy Makes a Big Announcement. Sort Of.

Exactly no one was surprised on Jan. 2, 1960, when Sen. John F. Kennedy stood under the crystal chandeliers in the red-carpeted caucus room of the Senate Office Building and announced he was running for president of the United States.

John F. Kennedy and Jackie campaign in Appleton, Wisc.

John F. Kennedy and Jackie campaign in Appleton, Wisc.

He was tanned and rested after a two-week vacation in Jamaica. His wife Jackie and his brother Bobby were there in the historic old room. So were 300 other people, half friends and supporters, half reporters.

Kennedy’s remarks started at 12:30 pm. He finished shortly thereafter on a note of hopeful heroism. “I have developed an image … of the American people as confident, courageous and persevering,” he said.

It wasn’t new. Kennedy had been saying things like that for months as he’d barnstormed across the country.

And as his press secretary Pierre Salinger recalled, an enterprising UPI reporter already broke the story two weeks earlier.

The reporter was wandering around the nearly empty Senate Office Building when he heard a clatter from Kennedy’s robotype room. A robotype is an automatic typewriter that produces thousands of letters and mailing labels. The reporter picked up one of the letters, which began, “I am announcing on January 2 my candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination.”

JFK20CampaignThe reporter knew he had a story. As soon as it hit the wire,  Salinger was besieged by reporters seeking confirmation. He said Sen. Kennedy hadn’t decided yet, and that the unsigned draft published by UPI ‘is but one of a number of drafts covering all possible eventualities concerning the senator’s decision.’ Salinger then added he had ‘grave doubts’ the senator had even seen it.

One newspaper editorialized it had ‘grave doubts about the future of Salinger’s job.’


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