12/27/2006 12:41 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Ford Coverage: Nixon, Chevy Chase And Football, But Something's Missing

Ford Daily News.PNGFox owned the late-night coverage of the passing of Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States, the only network to continue its live coverage straight through the night (and announcing that fact frequently). During that time there were frequent replays of classic clips ("Our long national nightmare is over"), the Nixon pardon, unusual status as the only person to be Vice-President and President but totally not elected to either office, way-back-when promotion of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, recurring SNL character as played by a pratfalling Chevy Chase, plus mentions of his football prowess (central to this morning's report on ESPN, at least according to a brief channel-surf). Yet there was nothing on one of history's most famous front pages, courtesy of the New York Daily News: "Ford To City: Drop Dead." The headline, penned by former NYDN managing editor William J. Brink, was the NYDN's sulky response to Ford's refusal to bail New York City out of potential bankruptcy during the city's fiscal crisis in the mid-Seventies. It's a strange omission not only because of its general American pop culture significance but also because of its political significance: Ford lost New York state to Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election, and Ford is said to have acknowledged the headline's role in that loss, and by extension, the loss of the presidency. As Fox tells it, that loss is largely attributable to Ford's full pardon of Nixon a month after taking office (with a nod to Ford's odd assertion that there was no Soviet domination in Eastern Europe. Oops). Probably mostly true, but still, an omission. One which, I should add, was also made by MSNBC in their Brian Williams-narrated segment (which, I'm sorry, is absolutely more authoritative than the Fox overnight pundits, particularly the woman who said that one of the assassination attempts on Ford was "by a member of the Manson family, I believe" as though that was an obscure, little-known fun fact). The MSNBC/NBC segment featured footage of Williams in a 2003 sit-down with Ford plus a way more varied clip reel than Fox (including essential Chevy Chase pratfall footage), but no "Drop Dead" cover (it does, however, have some sweet footage of 1974-era Tom Brokaw, looking pretty newsworthy himself). The omission of one newspaper headline over the course of an entire presidency and distinguished, honorable career is certainly no big deal, but this one in particular is so colorful, so iconic and so famous that its absence seems worthy of note.

Also worthy of note, particularly to soap opera fans: Presidential son Steven Ford struck out in a slightly different direction than his father as an actor, first coming to prominence (at least for this writer) as Andy Richards on The Young & The Restless, notable for being the best friend/sidekick to longtime character Paul Williams (Doug Davidson), who played an integral role in the breathless 1983 storyline where Paul's fiancee Lauren Fenmore (Tracey Bregman) was buried alive by her psycho manager (see the stunning climax here, in the not-original German!). (Diehard Y&R fans will remember this moment, I have no doubt, second only to Sheila-stealing-Lauren's-baby on the "Bold & The Beautiful" crossover.) The younger Ford also played the role of "Joe" in When Harry Met Sally, who didn't have much screen time but was a major plot point. More on Steven Ford here; more on his father on the cable news channels and across front pages from coast to coast.

A note: As a Canadian who was two years old when Gerald Ford was sworn in, I have never had much of an awareness of his presidency, but I have been struck by the humility of what he said upon taking office: "I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your President with your prayers." Perhaps it was that acute awareness that made him so focused on making his presidency literally a time to heal. He seems to have been an amazing, unassuming person, truly a uniter and not a divider. Definitely an example to emulate, if only someone would.