The Selling of The President, reconsidered


At Salon today, I’ve got a story on Joe McGinniss’s classic of campaign journalism, The Selling of The President. The occasion? Tom Junod’s epic profile of Roger Ailes. Because before Ailes graced the pages of Esquire, he played a key part in Richard Nixon’s campaign — and thus in The Selling of The President. McGinniss’s access to Nixon’s ad men was unbelievable. One reviewer assumed McGinniss had told Nixon’s campaign he was a graduate student; others figured he must have worked for the campaign. As you can see in the book’s advertising (click the image above for a larger view of an ad that ran in the Times Book Review), that access played a key part in the selling of The Selling of The President.

One great tidbit I couldn’t work in: This book made McGinniss into an instant star, and he received a flood of book proposals, potential TV gigs, and so many lecture offers that he had to hire an agent just to deal with them. What McGinniss didn’t do was sell the film rights. Plenty of studios inquired, but he chose instead to allow a theater producer to create a rock musical version (!!!) of The Selling of The President. McGinniss wasn’t involved with the adaptation and ended up souring on it when he found out the script included a couple of egregious plugs for Terminix. It seems the musical got financial backing from an executive with the company. No word on what his department was.

About Craig Fehrman

Craig Fehrman is a Ph.D. student in Yale’s English department and a freelance writer. He's working on a book about presidents and their books [more] . . .
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