Faux Pas

FDR’s Fishing Trip and Near Exposure of His Bare Buns

Franklin D. Roosevelt went to great lengths to hide the fact that he had been paralyzed by polio. Disguising his disability became even more complicated after his election to the presidency. Everywhere he went, the press and the public were eager to see everything about the nation’s chief executive.

He was not spared from this scrutiny, even during leisure activities. Because of this, there was one time when the public almost saw a lot more of their president than anyone expected.

Franklin D. Roosevelt showing off his catch

FDR was on a fishing trip aboard the Amberjack II in New England. Rather than being able to enjoy some quiet time away from the demands of the office, he found his solitude shattered by boats filled with Secret Service agents, newspaper reporters, and spectators. Even so, he tried to make the best of things.

One particularly annoying thing about the fishing expedition, however, was the inconvenience of the bathroom facilities. The narrow passageways on the ship prevented the use of his wheelchair, so whenever the president felt nature calling, he had to be carried to the toilet.

His aides did their best to move the president when no outsiders were watching, but that was difficult under the circumstances. It was also hard work to carry the six-foot-three, 190-pound man back and forth between the deck and the bathroom.

When the fog rolled in one morning, it seemed to present the perfect solution to the problem. FDR’s son, James, was with his father that day. He suggested that they take advantage of the low visibility and use the triangular extension of the stern as a toilet seat. The president welcomed the chance to take care of business without the usual ordeal and readily agreed.

Once Roosevelt was helped into position, James and the others on the deck stepped away to give him some privacy.

James recalled, “No sooner had I reached the bridge than I realized the fog was lifting, and there coming asteaming up on us, were several ships of the convoy. As they closed in, Father was bound to be visible. I shouted a warning.”

The men rushed to an alarmed FDR and snatched him up. With his pants down around his ankles, the President of the United States was carried like a sack of potatoes down the companionway and out of sight.


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