“It was hissing menacingly, its teeth flashing and nostrils flared and making straight for the president.”
April 20, 1979. PLAINS, GEORGIA. President Jimmy Carter was fishing alone in his boat when according to Carter, a rabbit “jumped in the water and swam toward my boat!” According to Press Secretary Jody Powell, the rabbit was: “Not one of your cutesy Easter Bunny-type rabbits, but one of those big splay-footed things that we called swamp rabbits when I was growing up. The animal was clearly in distress, or perhaps berserk. The President confessed to having little experience with enraged rabbits. He was unable to reach a definite conclusion about its state of mind. What was obvious, however, was that this large, wet animal, making strange hissing noises and gnashing its teeth, was intent upon climbing into the Presidential boat.”
As Dr. Michael Lorenzen observed in the American Presidents Blog: “The Secret Service having been caught flat-footed — I’ll grant you an amphibious rabbit assault is a tough thing to defend against — the president did what he could to protect himself. Initially it was reported that he had hit the rabbit with paddle. Realizing that this would not play well with the Rabbit Lovers Guild, Carter later clarified that he had merely splashed water at the rabbit, which then ran swam off toward shore. A White House photographer, ever alert to history’s pivotal moments, snapped a picture of the encounter for posterity.” (See above.)
At first the White House refused to release the photo, so The Washington Post carried the story on the front page with cartoon parody of the poster for Jaws labeled “PAWS” as its illustration. When his staff refused to believe his story, however, Carter had the photograph blown up. ( Carter seems destined to have his strange encounters challenged by critics. While Governor of Georgia he reported seeing an Unidentified Flying Object and filed a report on it with the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City. Nevertheless, there were those who expressed skepticism about the sighting.)
Lots more intriguing Presidential trivia in: THE PRESIDENT DID WHAT?
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