61 pages • 2 hours readBob Woodward, Carl Bernstein
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The Canuck letter was a major component of CRP’s “dirty tricks” during the 1972 Democratic primary. It was the summary of a conversation between candidate Edmund Muskie, his staff, and several unnamed persons in Florida. Muskie, a senator from Maine, was asked how his experiences in Maine would inform his response to race issues. One of his campaign aides responded that in Maine “we don’t have Blacks, but we have Canucks,” referring to American of French Canadian descent. Supposedly the senator laughed and said, “Come to New England and see.”
When the letter was published in a New England newspaper, there was a hostile reaction from many union leaders and traditional Democratic supporters across the region, including attacks on Muskie’s wife, Jane. Days later, Muskie responded to the story. In the only major story written about the speech, the reporter said that tears were rolling down Muskie’s face and that he repeatedly had to pause to regain composure. Muskie and others later denied the story, claiming it was rain, not tears, on his face. However, the damage was done, and the Canuck letter effectively ended his otherwise promising campaign. When confronted, Donald Segretti freely admitted that he and Kenneth Clawson had written the letter and had fabricated the controversy (262).