On the evening of December 5th, 1950, a carefully selected 3500-strong audience filled Washington’s Constitution Hall to witness a singing performance by Margaret Truman, the only child of then-U.S. President Harry Truman (also in attendance), and, despite the generally held consensus that her singing talents were lacking, a wave of positive reaction greeted her after the concert. One person who refused to feign delight was the Washington Post’s music critic, Paul Hume, whose honest review the next morning contained the following:
Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality […] Miss Truman cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time – more last night than at any time we have heard her in past years […] There are few moments during her recital when one can relax and feel confident that she will make her goal, which is the end of the song […] Miss Truman has not improved in the years we have heard her; she still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish. She communicates almost nothing of the music she presents.
The President was livid, and instantly fired off the following threatening letter to Hume. The next day it was front page news.
(Source: “Florence”; Image above, via.)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Dec. 6. 1950
I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”
It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.
Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!
Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you’ll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.