I didn’t realize this myself. I had read so many times that Bill Casey was refused a speaking platform at the 1992 Democratic Convention for his anti-abortion views that I assumed this was not in dispute. I was wrong.
For the past 16 years, news organizations have been repeating an obvious falsehood about the 1992 Democratic convention. According to countless news reports — in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, ABC, NPR, Time, Newsweek, CNN, MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal, and on and on and on — then-Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey was denied a speaking role at the convention because he opposed abortion rights.
That’s false. And it’s obviously false.
Here’s all you need to know in order to know with absolute certainty that Casey’s views on abortion were not the reason he was not given a speaking role: that very same Democratic convention featured speeches by at least eight people who shared Casey’s anti-choice position, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley Jr., Sens. John Breaux and Howell Heflin, and five governors.
The reason Casey was not afforded a prime time speaking position was that he refused to endorse Bill Clinton, and wanted to do a Zell Miller spew-fest, trashing the Democratic Party for various reasons, mostly having to do with abortion. Strange how that got twisted.
People involved in planning the 1992 Democratic convention have long maintained that Casey was not given an opportunity to speak because he refused to endorse Bill Clinton, who was to be nominated at the convention. That’s what they said at the time, too. The Washington Post’s first report on Casey’s request for speaking time included a quote from the Democratic National Committee’s press secretary: “anyone who is speaking at the convention will have endorsed Governor Clinton by the time of the convention and Governor Casey has not.”
It should be noted that it wasn’t merely that Casey hadn’t gotten around to endorsing Clinton. He was arguing that Clinton had only a “flyspeck” of support and that the party should consider nominating someone else at the convention.
Of course, only those involved in the decisions about who would speak at the convention know for certain if Casey’s refusal to endorse Clinton was the reason he wasn’t given a speaking role. But we do know that as soon as Casey asked for one, the Democratic Party publicly indicated that his failure to endorse Clinton would prevent him from speaking. If the convention organizers were making a bluff, Casey could have called it by simply endorsing Clinton. He chose not to. Instead, he began denouncing the party for having a “radical, extreme position” in favor of abortion rights and claiming it was bowing to “the radical far left.” Members of his own delegation were quoted saying he was “being a jerk” and said they were considering removing him as head of the delegation.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Casey didn’t merely want to speak at the convention. He wanted to devote his entire speech to opposing the Democratic Party on a single issue. After the convention ended, Casey released the text of the speech he would have delivered had he been given the chance. The speech ran more than 1,000 words — and not one of those words was “Clinton.” Nor was the word “Gore” mentioned. Casey’s speech did not include a single word of praise or support for the ticket being nominated at the convention he wanted to address. Instead, it accused the party of being “far out of the mainstream and on the extreme fringe” on abortion. That’s what the entire speech was about: disagreeing with, and insulting, the Democratic Party on abortion.
Barack Obama had better vet Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton’s speeches pretty carefully. Pretty damn carefully.
Jamison Foser continues