"Well, Barbara, I put those stories in the same category as those about you and Ed Brooke, they are rumors and gossip." Kennerly added that Walters lightened up pronto. (NY Post, 2008)Walters kept her multi-year affair with liberal Sen. Edward Brooke (R-MA) under raps until the release of her 2008 autobiography "Audition."1 Although the Walters/Brooke affair wasn't public in 1978 when two-term Sen. Brooke was running in the GOP primary against conservative Avi Nelson, Brooke's public divorce and liberal voting record--including pro-ERA and pro-abortion, two highly unpopular Utah political positions--were well documented. Although Brooke would win his primary election, Brooke would lose in the general to Democrat Paul Tsongas. Reflecting on the loss Lynette Clemetson claimed Brooke's lackluster image at the time:
Mr. Brooke lost his seat in 1978 after a bitter, public divorce and charges of financial impropriety had tarnished his reputation.2 (NT Times, 2007)During the GOP primary Avi Nelson,3 a conservative TV talk show host, seemed to be a clear-cut alternative to the liberal incumbent. Former campaign worker, Bostonian-raised columnist Frank McGuire mused on Nelson's credentials:
[Avi Nelson] was in the Tea Party Vanguard long before the current movement began. In 1978, Avi ran in a primary campaign as a Constitutionalist Republican against the Massachusetts mugwump Senator Ed Brooke, whose mug was on one side of the fence while his "wump" was on the other. With the odds and big-bucks against him, Avi, the son of a rabbi, and the graduate of MIT and Yale missed by a whisker of knocking-off Brooke. (RenewAmerica.com, Dec 2010)It would seem then that for a first-term, self-labeled "Conservative" Senator from Utah if one were to throw support to a GOP candidate in a MA primary given a choice between supporting a waning, pro-ERA candidate4 who voted to expand FICA benefits with the alternative a Constitutionalist Republican, Hatch would have an easy time tapping Avi Nelson. Nevertheless in a telegram shortly before the primary Hatch would join with others in opining:
Dear Ed: We want you to know that you have our strongest, most enthusiastic support in the primary election on Tuesday. (Roderick, Leading the Charge, 1994 p. 119; emphasis mine)Brooke's post-primary response to the Hatch telegram pointed to the impact Hatch had in defeating Brooke's conservative primary opponent:
Your endorsement was perfectly timed and politically potent...I'll always be grateful. (Ibid.)One of the reasons Hatch gave as his reasoning for his support for Brooke over Nelson was Brooke's skin color. Brooke had on his own achieved the distinction of becoming the first black U.S. Senator since reconstruction and was the only black at the time. Privately, Hatch revealed:
Besides, Ed Brooke is the only black in the U.S. Senate, and a friend, and I would hate to have him lose. (Ibid.)In expressing the desire to vote for Brooke because of his skin color, perhaps Hatch was fulfilling an inner need to publicly show tolerance admist previous national racial divides. Yet Hatch's decision to support the liberal Brooke based partly on race seems to have clouded what blacks have fought for, to--as Dr. King famously said--one day live in a nation where we would not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.
Hatch's motives in supporting a losing liberal Republican over a Conservative seem rather inconsequential at this point as he gears up for re-election. Of relevance is that this liberal-supporting incident early on in Hatch's career would hardly stand out as an anomaly. Hatch has continually supported liberal candidates and judges over his tenure--with a recent example being his support for ex-Sen. Bennett. Conservatives were furious with Hatch's support of Brooke in 1978, and a new generation of conservatives are resurrecting those frustrations, coupling them with present ones.
1 Were these 1975 rumors to ever be proved valid, then both Brooke and Walters would have both been married during the time of their affair as Walters did not divorce until 1976 and Brooke until 1978.
2 Black Americans in Congress cites the same issues in their Brooke bio. See especially footnote 44 for further reading.
3 Avi Nelson is still around the political arena in the Bay State. He currently has a Saturday radio show at WRKO in Boston.
4 I'm re-emphasizing this issue because its importance to the context of this discussion. To equivocate ERA in 1978 in terms for modern readers, think of the 2008 California Prop 8 issue. In both cases the LDS church took strong and active stances and was highlighted in the national media. Also if the name Sonia Johnson means anything to anyone, 1978 was the apex of her notoriety culminating her her excommunication from the church the following year.