On a fishing trip in Plains, Georgia, President Carter had an encounter with a "swamp rabbit". This seemingly trivial event was seized upon by the press and became a sort of Rorschach test of the Carter presidency: reporters and commentators saw in this story whatever they wanted to see in Carter's administration. Jody Powell, Carter's press secretary, described the affair in his 1986 book The Other Side of the Story:
It began late one afternoon in the spring of 1979. The President was sitting with a few of us on the Truman Balcony. He had recently returned from a visit to Plains, and we were talking about homefolks and how the quail were nesting and similar matters of international import.
The President then evidently shooed the critter away from his boat with a paddle. The scene was captured on film by a White House photographer.
The incident might have died of natural causes but for the fact that Powell himself later passed the story along to the press:
Several months later I was chatting with Brooks Jackson, one of the White House correspondents for the Associated Press, over a cup of tea, as I remember. For reasons that I still do not fully understand, I told him about the President and the rabbit. I was the one who leaked the killer rabbit story.Well - this is where I enter the story. I was 25 at the time the story broke, and I remember the furor over the incident. However, I can't recall ever having seen the aforementioned picture. Web searches turned up plenty of references to the story, but no images; the story unfortunately broke before Al Gore invented the Internet.
I contacted the friendly folks at the Jimmy Carter Library about the picture, not really expecting much help:
Greetings, Jimmy Carter Library folks. Is the infamous picture of President Carter being attacked by a rabbit while fishing available from the Library? I suspect this is a common question, and I also suspect that the standard answer is "No, and we wouldn't tell you if it were anyway." :-) Still - I figured it was worth a try.To my amazement, I received this response:
Thank you for your photo inquiry of November 7, 2003. The 'killer rabbit' photo is available at the Library. An 8x10 color print costs $25.50: a b&w print costs $20.50. We require prepayment and will accept a credit card or a check made out to the National Archives Trust Fund.After a few more exchanges, I wound up ordering a 300dpi TIFF on CD of this image:
I'm grateful to the folks at the Carter Library for their cheerful cooperation. They have advised me that the picture is in the public domain, but they would like any usage to note that the picture is courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library.
Note: If you wish to link to this image, please do me a favor and link to this page, and don't "deep link" to the image itself. Since the photo is in the public domain, you're welcome to copy it to your own server if you wish. It would be polite to credit the source.