Peccadillos of the Famous

On October 9, 1974, Congressman Wilbur Mills (D-AR), powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was involved in a traffic accident in Washington DC. Mills was intoxicated and accompanied by Annabelle Battistella, better known as Fanny Foxe, an Argentine stripper.

The ensuring publicity prompted Time Magazine editors to sound out their reporter on Capitol Hill, Neil MacNeil, about his approach to covering the story. MacNeil responded with a 10-page memo entitled “peccadillos of the famous.”

According to MacNeil, Time’s policy “is that a prominant [sic] person’s private-life peccadillos, such as womanizing and booze, normally should be passed over by the press until and unless those actions somehow compromise his public actions and responsibilities.”

He wrote at length about the challenges of reporting on Congress members’ “private” lives and cited many examples of unreported indiscretions, including some involving John Kennedy. One example involving a senator from a southern state:

This reporter has seen—some years ago—Senator [name and state] staggeringly drunk on the Senate floor, incapable of managing a bill before the Senate under his care, wildly shouting to the presiding officer, and finally dragged from the chamber by two fellow senators. We reported that incident in full—but TIME did not print it.

To find out the name of the senator, read MacNeil’s report at: macneil_peccadillos.pdf