Author Joe McGinniss passed away yesterday of prostate cancer. He was 71.
McGinniss became an overnight sensation in 1969 with the best selling book The Selling of a President 1968. It was a first-hand account of the efforts of the Nixon campaign to remake the image of the man who would be elected the 37th President. Ironically, McGinniss had originally planned to write his book about the Humphrey campaign as he got the idea when he overheard a marketing executive exclaim about getting the Humphrey account while on a train ride. However, the Humphrey campaign said no. The Nixon campaign said yes. For better or for worse, McGinniss, who was only 26 at the time, changed the way political campaigns are written about. McGinniss would also gain a fan in William F. Buckley.
Nearly two decades later, Buckley would testify on behalf of McGinniss
when the author was sued by convicted murderer Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald following the publication of Fatal Vision
McGinniss had led MacDonald and his defense team to believe he thought MacDonald was innocent. However, when Fatal Vision
was published in 1983, McGinniss argued that MacDonald was guilty of murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters. McGinniss eventually settled with MacDonald out of court, paying him $325,000.
Although Buckley believed McGinniss to be “ferociously honest,” most conservatives did not share his opinion when he set to write a book about Sarah Palin, especially when he set up shop next door to the former Alaska Governor and 2008 GOP VP nominee. In 2011, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin
was released. Palin considered bringing legal action against McGinniss and Random House. However, as I argued
at the time, a lawsuit would have been a Godsend for McGinniss and that the best punishment for him was the book’s poor sales. Palin did not pursue any legal action against McGinniss.
It would prove to be McGinniss’ last work, as he was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly thereafter.