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When a music critic ruffled Harry Truman's feathers

President Harry Truman kisses his daughter, Margaret, when she greeted him on arrival to New York in 1954. Margaret Truman, the only child of former President Harry S. Truman, became a concert singer, actress, radio and TV personality and mystery writer.
President Harry Truman kisses his daughter, Margaret, when she greeted him on arrival to New York in 1954. Margaret Truman, the only child of former President Harry S. Truman, became a concert singer, actress, radio and TV personality and mystery writer. (Associated Press)

President Donald Trump's attacks on the media escalated last week after he selected MSNBC's "Morning Joe" hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski for a series of Twitter fusillades in retaliation for their persistent criticism of his administration and the questioning of his mental health stability.

The fact that the press occasionally gets under a president's skin is certainly nothing new, as evidenced by a review written by Washington Post music critic Paul Hume of President Harry S. Truman's daughter Margaret's Dec. 6, 1950, recital at Constitution Hall, that succeeded in raising the ire of an overly protective and sensitive father.

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The battle had been brewing for several years, after Hume had written in The Post in 1947, that Margaret, a soprano, "should refrain from public appearances for at least two or three years," as she "learned to sing properly."

In his review the next day of her performance at Constitution Hall, Hume rolled out the heavy artillery.

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"She is flat a good deal of the time — more last night than at any time we have heard her in past years," he wrote. "There are few moments during her recital when one can relax and feel confident that she will make her goal, which is the end of the song."

And for an added jolt, Hume wrote: "Miss Truman has not improved in the years we have heard her."

Truman wasted no time responding to Hume's review which he dismissed as "poppycock."

"Someday I hope to meet you," Truman fumed in a 150-word handwritten letter on White House stationary. "When that happens, you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes and perhaps a supporter below," which he signed "H.S.T."

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"A flood of letters-to-the-editor in papers across the country expressed shock over the President's 'uncouthness,' his lack of self-control," wrote David McCullough in his 1992 book "Truman."

Even Americans living abroad felt the heat of Truman's fury. The incident has "caused much humiliation and embarrassment to the Americans living in this country," a correspondent wrote to The Post from Australia.

Hume later sold the note in 1951 to a Connecticut collector for $3,500. Today, it resides in the personal collection of billionaire real estate developer Harlan Crow.

Hume died in a Baltimore nursing home in 2001.

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