Quote Origin: Kennedy Didn’t Beat Nixon. Satire Beat Nixon

Chris Rock? Michael Cavna? Garry Trudeau? David Frost? Aaron McGruder? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: Satire can puncture pomposity and direct laughter at the powerful. The results of U.S. presidential elections have been swayed by satire. The 1960 contest between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was close. The barbs directed at Nixon were effective in delaying his ascension to the White House by eight years. One astute commentator said:

Kennedy didn’t beat Nixon. Satire beat Nixon.

The above remark has been attributed to comedian Chris Rock. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 2008 journalist Michael Cavna published “Comedians Of Clout” in the “Washington Post”. Cavna gathered and presented comments about satire from contemporary comedians including Chris Rock:1

. . . he acknowledges the potential power of electoral satire. The comic, speaking by phone, says he grew up hearing the lesson that back in 1960, “Kennedy didn’t beat Nixon. Satire beat Nixon.”

Thus, Chris Rock helped to popularize this expression, but he disclaimed credit. The originator remains unknown.

Additional details and citations are available in the article on the Medium platform which is located here.

Image Notes: Picture of stickers stating “I Voted” from Element5 Digital at Unsplash. The image has been cropped.

Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Mardy Grothe whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Grothe operates the website “Great Opening Lines”.

[1] 2008 June 12, The Washington Post, Comedians Of Clout; In a Funny Way, Satirical Takes Can Color Perceptions of the Presidential Contenders; Continuation title: Sharp-Tongued Political Satirists Are Having Their Say by Michael Cavna (Washington Post Staff Writer), Start Page C1, Quote Page C5, Column 1 and 2, Washington D.C. (ProQuest)

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