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"That Gerald Ford. He can't fart and chew gum at the same time."
"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over."
Gerald Ford

AKA "Mr. Nice Guy", "The Accidental President" or just plain "Gerry Ford".

Was the 38th President of the United States (1974-1977).

Unique in that he was the only president who assumed the office without being elected either president or vice-president. He was appointed to the vice-presidency after Richard Nixon's original vice-president, Spiro T. Agnew resigned amidst a slew of criminal investigations of general corruption and general jerkishness.

Longest-lived person to serve as president, he got an aircraft carrier (yet to be completed) named after him while he was still alive. Notably difficult to caricature due to a complete lack of distinguishing features. Satirical portrayals usually focused on his clumsiness, mainly due to that one time he fell down the stairs (which is ironic because was a star athlete on the football team of his alma-mater, University of Michigan) and genial demeanor. Fittingly, he's usually depicted as a bit of a clumsy but amiable doofus.

Ford didn't do a whole lot in office, and is often viewed as a footnote -- he is the only President to hold office since Franklin D Roosevelt that never made Time magazine's "Person of the Year". He's most famous for:

  • Being married to Betty Ford, one of the most politically active First Ladies in history. She pushed for, among other things, the Equal Rights Amendment, breast cancer awareness and abortion rights, and spoke candidly about marijuana use and premarital sex, often leading conservative critics to call her "No Lady". It's been argued that she had a greater impact on the US than her husband did -- she was named "Woman of the Year" by Time in 1975. Today, she's also known for establishing the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse recovery.
  • Remarking upon Richard Nixon's resignation that "the long national nightmare is over", then granting Tricky Dick a pardon.
  • Opposing Roe v. Wade, though he became pro-choice later in life.
  • Accusing Jimmy Carter of being "all sizzle and no steak" on the campaign trail, though the two of them became good friends after Carter's term ended.
  • Being in favor of gay rights toward the end of his life in the '90s and early '00s.
  • Falling down a lot, due to an inner ear problem. This was lampooned by Saturday Night Live actor Chevy Chase. He didn't actually fall down as often as SNL viewers would be led to believe -- although Chase's parody of this became so iconic that this trait was mentioned in the Animaniacs "Presidents" song. It should be noted Ford was a former football star at the University of Michigan and generally extremely fit; while he did indeed fall down the steps of Air Force One (he later said this was because the stairs were slick due to rain) he picked himself up at the bottom of the stairs and was shaking hands with dignitaries before anybody could even ask if he was okay.
  • Chevy Chase's Saturday Night Live impression of him that neither looked or sounded anything like Ford.
  • His debate gaffe in 1976 when he said that Poland was not under Soviet domination. Oops.
  • The attempt on his life by Manson Family cultist Lynette Fromme, and another by Sara Jane Moore only seventeen days later. He's the only US President to have been on the receiving end of assassination attempts by women.
  • Puns on his name being that of a car (although he's not related to Henry Ford or his descendants). Besides the page quote, other Republican primary challengers distributed buttons reading "Ford is an Edsel" and "Trade in your Ford in '76". And then there's the fact that the most famous satirist of him was Chevy Chase.
  • Being something of an enthusiastic sports fan. He was an alumnus of the University of Michigan and reportedly nagged the presidential band that he wanted them to play the U of M fight-song in lieu of Hail to the Chief as his presidential fanfare. For this reason, most Michiganders[1] have quite fond memories of him.
  • By all accounts, he had a great sense of humour.

He refused to criticize George W. Bush while he was alive, insisting that an interview where he said, "[Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and [Vice President Dick] Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq", not be released until after his death.

Like it has done to many people, as soon as he died, the media began to gloss over his faults and paint him in a much more positive light.


Ford in Fiction

Comic Books

  • In Watchmen, "The Comedian" Edward Blake poses with him.
    • And later, he trips. Again.

Literature

  • In Stephen King's The Dead Zone, after Johnny Smith wakes up from his five-year coma, he expresses horror when he hears that Ford is President, thinking that it was Henry Ford at first.

Live Action TV

  • Ford's death resulted in a Funny Aneurysm Moment on Thirty Rock. Less than a month before his death, an episode aired in which Pete hopes the Show Within The Show will be preempted and says "How's Gerald Ford's health?" In the DVD release, the line was changed to "It's still hurricane season, right?"
    • It resulted in a rather bizarre incident on Late Night with David Letterman as well. Letterman's show was on when CBS aired a ticker at the bottom of the screen announcing Ford's death. The timing of the ticker was as such that Letterman (completely unaware, as the show is taped in the afternoon) was exclaiming "yes!" at the precise time the ticker was displayed.
  • One notably hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch featured Dana Carvey as Tom Brokaw pre-recording news briefs for every possible death of Gerald Ford including suicide, overdosing on crack cocaine, walking into a propeller, and being eaten by wolves. Carvey apologized to the former president at the end of the episode and the sketch is featured in his "Best Of..." compilation.

 Tom Brokaw: Alright, alright.. [graphic of Ford surrounded by a pair of wolves] "Tragedy today, as former President Gerald Ford was eaten by wolves. He was delicious." Now.. now, that's just superfluous, you know?

Producer: It's a former President, Tom. What do you say - he's not delicious?

    • Chevy Chase's impersonation, noted above, spawned one of the best lines in SNL history. After being asked a particularly complicated question in Presidential Debate:

  Gerald Ford: "I was told there would be no math."

  Hey, Gerry. Let me ask you something: How the Hell could you pardon Nixon?!

    • And that was right after Eric went streaking right in front of the president while wearing a Richard Nixon mask.

Video Games

  We haven't seen footwork like that since Gerald Ford! Unfortunately your fall causes you to make contact with the non-moving deck below. The resulting impact forces the cancellation of your subscription to life.

Western Animation

  • In The Simpsons, after George HW Bush moved away, Gerald Ford moved into the house Mr. Bush just left.
    • And became a good friend of Homer as they're both simple, amicable salt of the earth types who shared common ground (read: they both tripped on the same piece of sidewalk at the same time and fell flat on their faces).
      • Their photo together is still in the family closet.
  • In Futurama, after Fry admits that he was going to vote for Clinton but decided voting wasn't cool, Gerald Ford's head says "Frankly, I've never felt voting to be all that essential to the process."
    • He appears again in a season 8 episode, in which he states "Hi, I'm Gerry. I like movies!"

Notes

  1. Even those who usually back the sports teams of U of M's instate (read: friendly) rival MSU
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