He did not tell Mr. Mankiewicz that he had been hospitalized three times for depression and that his treatment had twice involved electroshock therapy.R.I.P. Thomas P. Eagleton.
But rumors began circulating among politicians and journalists. Mr. Eagleton ultimately held a news conference on July 25 in Custer, S.D., where he had just briefed the vacationing Mr. McGovern over breakfast. Mr. Eagleton told reporters that he had been treated for “nervous exhaustion.” But in response to questions, he acknowledged that the treatment had included psychiatric counseling and electric shocks.
That day Mr. McGovern said, “I think Tom Eagleton is fully qualified in mind, body and spirit to be the vice president of the United States and, if necessary, to take on the presidency on a moment’s notice.” A few days later, as objections to Mr. Eagleton began to mount, Mr. McGovern insisted that he was “1,000 percent for Tom Eagleton.”
But the pressure from party leaders, campaign contributors and members of McGovern’s own staff was unrelenting. On July 31, the candidates met again, this time in Washington, and Mr. McGovern forced him to withdraw. Mr. Eagleton stepped down after 18 days as the nominee, saying he had done so for the sake of “party unity.”
Clearly, it was Eagleton who made the mistake. Even today, do we really know so much more about mental illness? And, if we do, would we say that someone who had been hospitalized three times for depression should be Vice President? It seems to me that McGovern would have rejected him if he'd known, as would any other competent presidential candidate then or now, and Eagleton's failure to disclose that information to Mankiewicz was an entirely separate reason to reject him. It was horrible when McGovern said "1,000 percent" and then got rid of him, but the biggest mistake there was saying "1,000 percent" instead of figuring out what to do quickly and accomplishing it diplomatically. Why does McGovern now say that he should have kept him? It must just be that he doesn't like his name associated with hostility toward persons with mental illness. Why not be kind and compassionate now that nothing is at stake?