Brisbane to Ministers on Candidate Hearst
[ . . . ] then Dr. S. H. Thompson
of Red Bank, N. J., wanted to know about the charge that the Hearst
cartoons were responsible for President McKinley’s assassination.
“There has been a wide misstatement
of facts here,” said Mr. Brisbane. “It is true that the Hearst newspapers
did print a series of cartoons at the expense of Mr. McKinley, entitled,
‘Willie and His Pa,’ and depicting the late Presiden[t] at the beck
and call of the trusts. Now, these were ordinary, humorous sketches,
and the fact [i]s that no one seemed to enjoy them more than Mr.
McKinley himself. In truth, he collected them and kept them to the
day of his death, as Mrs. McKinley can testify. Just before Mr.
McKinley met his death Mr. Opper, the artist, received a letter
from Mr. Roosevelt, then Vice President, who commended him for his
funny work. Mr. Roosevelt thought the ‘Willie’ cartoon[s] very funny,
and asked for a set of them. We did not print this letter at the
time we were charged with assassination, owing to the delicacy of
Mr. Roosevelt’s position.
“It was during this series of cartoons
that Mr. Hearst called upon the President for the purpose of organizing
a regiment to fight in the Spanish war. Mr. McKinley was very pleasant
and friendly to Mr. Hearst, and thanked him for his offer, declining
it on the ground that an acceptance would disorganize army plans.
Mr. Hearst then offered, without cost, a yacht, to be placed at
the disposal of the Government for war service. [Other] rich men,
you will recall, received money for similar gifts. Mr. McKinley
was very gracious to Mr. Hearst when this offer was made, and thanked
him again. Mr. McKinley and Mr. Hearst at that time were on friendly
“When the assassination occurred,
certain persons looked about for a mark upon which to stamp their
condemnation; they wanted to find a provocation for the work of
Czolgosz, and the thing that fixed their attention was the Hearst
cartoons. They grasped the opportunity to flaunt them before the
enraged country because they couldn’t very well find anything else
off-hand. Then some of our enemies went to the Buffalo prison and
showed Czolgosz the cartoons. He was asked if he had ever seen and
read them. He replied that he had not.”