Sweating Like Nixon

During the 1960 Presidential debates between then Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John Kennedy, it’s a widely held opinion that Kennedy’s marginal victory was due to Nixon’s profuse sweating in front of the cameras and the American Public. Even Nixon admitted he tended to sweat, and asked Don Hewitt the then producer of the Debate if the cameras would move away if he needed to dab his lips. It didn’t help that day that Nixon was just recovering from the flu, and that he refused makeup just prior to the start of the debate.

Back in the late ‘1990s, and knee deep in dot com maddness, our COO at the time was invited onto CNBC to discuss our company Onsale.com, which at the time was going through the merger of Egghead.com. Jeff is a very tall and confident fellow with a strong presence, he’s very well spoken, commands a bounding voice and has good public speaking skills.

On that particular day, the company could have used every bit of Jeff’s confidence and story spinning, as the company was going through many changes and pulling it all off was expected to be tricky. The questions could be difficult on this day, and back during that time, stock prices could swing one way or the other depending on how your eyebrows moved.

That early morning, Jeff is in the green room at the studio in San Francisco, and he makes a call to chat with a mutual associate Merle, while he is waiting his turn to get in front of the live camera.

I happen to run into Merle later that morning at the office, and Merle joked that Jeff was complaining that the green room was very hot with very poor ventilation and that he couldn’t stop sweating. Jeff then went on to remind Merle somewhat jokingly that Nixon lost the 1960 debate due to the sweating issue. A few nervous laughs were likely exchanged and the call ended. Jeff by the way had no idea that Merle shared his Nixon comments with me.

I got a late start that morning so I could see the interview from home and as expected the interview went just fine, and Jeff did great.

About noon that same day, both Jeff and I bumped into each other in the hallway and we exchanged a quick greeting. I made mention that I saw him that morning on CNBC and he quickly asked back how I thought the interview went.

Without skipping a beat I said, “Jeff, you did great- but you were sweating like Nixon”.

If I only had a camera to capture the look on Jeff’s face that very moment…


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