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Jabbing Trump, Union Leader Carries on Tradition of Lambasting Politicians

Cheryl Senter, NHPR

Joseph McQuaid, publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, might’ve kicked the proverbial hornet’s nest when he penned a front-page editorial calling Republican frontrunner Donald Trump “a crude blowhard with no clear political philosophy.”

But the newspaperman was simply continuing his outlet’s long-running tradition of cutting presidential candidates down to size. 

Indeed, being subjected to an unflattering (often front-page) U-L screed is something of a rite of passage for candidates trying to court voters in the Granite State.

McQuaid’s predecessor, William Loeb, perfected the art of the attack editorial. In his more than three decades running the Union Leader, Loeb became famous for his willingness to use the paper’s front-page to attack politicians who fell short of his vision of conservatism. Here are a few of the epithets he used in print to describe various public officials. (The list comes from Kevin Cash’s classic biography Who the Hell is William Loeb?)

  • President Harry Truman: “The Maharaja of Washington”
  • President Dwight Eisenhower: “Playboy President;” “Dopey Dwight”
  • President John Kennedy: “No. 1 Liar in the USA”
  • Gov. George Romney: “Chihuahua George”
  • Gov. Nelson Rockefeller: “Wife swapper”
  • Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara: “Blubbering Bob”
  • Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith: “Moscow Maggie”
  • Rev. Martin Luther King Jr: “A pious, pompous fraud”
  • Congressman Perkins Bass: “N.H.’s Shame”
  • Sen. Joseph Biden: “Stupid, conceited jackass”
  • Barbara Walters: “A shameless huckster;” “A hussy”

Loeb died in 1981, but his successors — Nackey Loeb, his widow, and now McQuaid — have made sure to carry on his legacy of lambasting politicians.

In the Union Leader’s 1999 front-page endorsement of Steve Forbes, McQuaid packed a double punch against the businessman’s opponents: “(George W.) Bush is a nice guy but an empty suit with no philosophical underpinning. (John) McCain could finish a strong second, in the Democrats' race.”

He followed up with another editorial devoted entirely to the idea that McCain, too liberal for McQuaid’s liking, was “running in the wrong race.”

The paper would, notably, go on to endorse McCain over Mitt Romney in 2008: “When the campaigning gets serious and the gloves come off, McCain sticks to the facts; Romney plays loose with them,” McQuaid wrote that time around.

In 2003, McQuaid took aim at Howard Dean, calling him “a dangerous loose cannon” and drawing parallels between his persona and the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (Again, on the paper's front page.)

In 2011, McQuaid declared Ron Paul “a dangerous man” for his foreign policy stance. And he went on to excoriate Romney in a series of prominently placed editorials during the building up to the 2012 primary — characterizing him, among other things, as “a nice, rich man with a tin ear… and plenty of pals in the Republican in-crowd.

Of course, the paper's ire isn't reserved only for presidential hopefuls. McQuaid kept it short and not-so-sweet after New Hampshire's Congressman was found guilty of campaign finance violations earlier this year, penning this six-word editorial: "Frank Guinta is a damned liar."

So whether or not Trump — who’s brushed off the publisher’s critiques and responded with plenty of jabs of his own — is truly bothered by the Union Leader’s recent scorn, at least he can take comfort in the fact that he’s not alone.

Casey McDermott is a senior news editor at New Hampshire Public Radio. Throughout her time as an NHPR reporter and editor, she has worked with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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