Notable witch hunts in US history: Trump, Salem, Nixon and Bill Clinton's penis
Is the investigation into President Trump ‘the single greatest witch hunt’ in history? Let’s compare, shall we?
It’s been a bumpy ride for President Donald Trump and his administration. Things came to head on Wednesday when ex-FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed to head up an investigation into the Trump administration’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.
Victim: President Donald J. Trump
Trump took to Twitter on Thursday morning to call the Russia probe “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
As the Representative of Salem, MA, I can confirm that this is false. https://t.co/8yJIzZBSE8— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) May 18, 2017
Surely in the history of our young nation, others have been the target of misdirected ire.
Trump followed up his tweet with another declaring, “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!”
Later in the day, Trump told a reporter, “The entire thing has been a witch hunt,” referring to his treatment as POTUS.
When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2017
...is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total "witch hunt!"— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2017
FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
We’ve gotten the impression that Trump thinks he’s the target of a witch hunt.
“That is of course our image of Salem witchcraft, which is that it was a bunch of people—women, for the most part—who were unfairly accused of being witches,” Mary Beth Norton, author of “In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692” told The Atlantic. “When someone draws this analogy to a witch hunt, it implies from the very beginning that it’s unfair.
Which brings us to our first candidate to go up against The Donald for “single greatest witch hunt” in American history… the actual witch hunts in Salem, Massachusetts.
Victim: All the women who were murdered in the name of purging the land of witches… and this guy.
Philip English, who held office in Salem during the time of the Salem witch trials, and his wife were accused of the devil’s magic. English, a selectman in the town, was arrested and held on charges of witchcraft, Norton told The Atlantic.
Being a wealthy man, he was able to bribe the jailor and make his getaway before a trial could be held.
“A number of wealthy people who were accused of being witches escaped, and they all went to New York and hid out until the trial blew over,” Norton added.
The governor’s wife was also accused of being a witch in 1962.
Twenty people of the 200 accused in Massachusetts were put to death between 1962 and 1963, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Afterwards, the colony admitted its “oopsies” and compensated the families of the executed.
Victim: Everyone accused of being a communist during the second “red scare” who lost their jobs and livelihoods.
Back in the ‘80s, bad guys in movies were Russians. The baddest of all badass Soviets was the character Captain Ivan Drago who famously uttered the line, “If he dies, he dies,” while duking it out with Apollo Creed in “Rocky IV”.
The Soviet Union, now Russia, was the face of evil during the Cold War, a cross now borne by Arabs today. (The go-to bad guy on the silver and small screens is usually a generic could-be-from-any-country Middle Eastern man. Let’s just say it and hang our heads in racist sorrow).
The original “red scare,” or fear of the rise of communism or radical leftism, started after World War I when the Industrial Workers of the World, reacting to impoverished conditions, organized to unite workers as a social class and abolish capitalism.
The second “red scare” — commonly known as “McCarthyism — took place after World War II and became the pet cause of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin).
The witch, ‘er, Communist hunt, damaged lives and careers. The House Committee on Un-American Activities, created in 1938, whipped up a blacklist. The people on the list, including hundreds of actors, directors, screenwriters and other Hollywood types, were barred from working.
McCarthy saw Commies everywhere. In February of 1950, he scared the bejebus out of Wheeling, West Virgina by announcing he had a list of known Communists — 205 employees of the State Department.
Americans were afraid to discuss or debate the Cold War for fear of being accused of sympathizing with the Communists.
After four years of mounting hysteria, McCarthy fell as quickly as he rose after he accused the U.S. Army of aiding known communists. McCarthy never actually found any communists, according to History.
McCarthy was censured by the Senate and died in 1957. The House Committee on Un-American Activities was renamed the House Internal Security Committee in 1969 and reached its demise in 1975.
Victim: Richard Nixon?
In 1972, police arrested five men, including security chief of the Committee to Re-elect the President, for breaking into an office in the Watergate complex, attempting to steal documents from the DNC headquarters and bugging the office.
The president at the time was Richard “I’m not a crook” Nixon who beat out his Democratic rival and was re-elected president by the American people.
Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein jumped on the story in 1973.
"It was not about a break-in, a single break-in," Bernstein told CNN in 2003. "It was about a pattern of illegal activities involving beating up members of the political opposition physically, stealing their memos, wiretapping political opponents, breaking into offices of psychiatrists, firebombing think tanks."
Keeping his distance for a while, Nixon was connected to the burglary by an audio recording. The House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment, but Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974 without admitting guilt.
His vice president, Gerald Ford, was sworn in and a month after the “national nightmare,” pardoned his predecessor.
"One thing I can see clearly now is that I was wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthrightly in dealing with Watergate, particularly when it reached the stage of judicial proceedings and grew from a political scandal into a national tragedy,” Nixon said on Sept. 9 when he accepted the pardon.
Victim: Bill Clinton’s penis
Former President Bill Clinton might forever be known as — not just second president in U.S. history to be impeached, but — the president who lied about getting a b.j. in the Oval Office.
In 1995, a young intern named Monica Lewinsky started as an unpaid intern in the office of Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. After being shipped off to the Pentagon for "inappropriate and immature behavior,” Lewinsky was befriended by a new co-worker, Linda Tripp.
Suspecting Clinton to be a serial perpetrator of sexual assault, Tripp began secretly taping conversations with Lewinsky in which the former White House intern divulged information about her affair with the married president.
When the scandal erupted, a special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, expanded his Whitewater investigation to include the allegations of the sexual relationship.
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” Clinton initially maintained in January 1998. Nine months later, he appeared on national television to confess to American that he indeed had “a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong.”
In the end, the House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment, charging Clinton with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice.
To this writer’s knowledge, Clinton never publicly called the investigation a “witch hunt.”
Norton explained to The Atlantic: “It struck me that one of the most obvious recent examples is the impeachment and trial of President Bill Clinton for what certain people regarded in Congress as a ‘high crime and misdemeanor,’ which basically meant an attempt to cover up a rather sordid affair with a young woman – something that surely the framers of the Constitution never intended to be covered under the high crimes and misdemeanors clause.”
If you find yourself the victim of a witch hunt, follow this handy flowchart on how to get out of it.