The Goldwater Takedown

Media coverage of the 1964 presidential campaign was a precursor to today’s partisan journalism.

At the height of the 1964 race between Arizona’s junior senator, Barry Goldwater, and President Lyndon Johnson, the cover headline of Fact magazine’s September–October issue practically screamed: 1,189 PSYCHIATRISTS SAY GOLDWATER IS PSYCHOLOGICALLY UNFIT TO BE PRESIDENT! Inside, every page was given over to the feature, titled “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.”

Forgotten today, Fact even then was far from a major player on the journalistic scene. It had launched earlier that year and would survive just until 1967. Still, it enjoyed a status among the day’s progressive bien pensants far beyond what its limited circulation might suggest. Edited by the profession’s reigning provocateur, Ralph Ginzburg, its early issues had generated buzz with ahead-of-the-curve investigations of the tobacco and soft-drink industries, as well as American policy in Vietnam.

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