MARQUETTE– 100 years ago Marquette had a visit that’s still remembered today.
“Teddy Roosevelt came to Marquette to prosecute a lawsuit for libel against a local newspaper by the name of the Iron Ore,” said Mikel Classen, who has written a book about the trail called Teddy Roosevelt and the Marquette Libel Trial.
The story started when Roosevelt was campaigning for the White House. Classen said that “he spent a lot of time basically insulting the steel industry.”
Because of that, the editor of the local Iron Ore newspaper, George Newett, published a editorial accusing Roosevelt of being a drunk.
“Now this was something Roosevelt had been waiting for someone to put into print,” Classen said. “There had been rumors running around for years that he was drunk and disorderly.”
According to Classen, this couldn’t be farther from the truth, and his favorite drink was milk.
The trial lasted five days and was a spectacle itself. Roosevelt gave a testimony unlike many have every heard before. Classen describes it as like an autobiography. He talked about almost everything, from his everyday life to his hunting trip to Africa. But, the big moment was when one of Newett’s witnesses didn’t show up.
“His prime witness, apparently, had gotten in trouble for check fraud,” Classen said. He “skipped to Canada and was no longer available.”
After winning the case, Roosevelt took the minimal reward of six cents. When someone asked him what he was going to do with the money, Roosevelt said, “That’s the price of a good newspaper, the Iron Ore costs three cents.”
“I truly believe that if it was not for this libel trail, we would have a completely different perception of Theodore Roosevelt as president,” said Classen.