Gerald Ford falls


Above, the photographer Wally McNamee captured an iconic moment as President Gerald Ford slips and falls as he leaves Air Force One upon arrival in Vienna, Austria for a state visit in 1975. This fall and another slip earlier cemented Ford’s reputation as clumsy and inept with the press.

Ironically, Ford was one of the most athletic people to assume the presidency. An Eagle scout and male model, the president was also a serious athlete still fondly remembered at the University of Michigan as a star football player and cheer leading coach whose mastery of the back handspring was known even at Yale. On then-fledgling television show, Saturday Night Live, comedian Chevy Chase made fun of the president as a blundering, gawky leader who was not to be taken seriously. The weekly skits had Chevy Chase as the president who might mistake a water glass for a telephone or go tumbling over his own desk or Christmas tree.

Thus the accidental president was made him accident prone. The SNL skits influenced the ’76 elections by instilling in people’s minds an image of an inept president. It was a moment launched Chevy’s career, and ruined Ford’s. Two later became friends.

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