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Hemmingsen Recalls '72 Presidential Election

October 23, 2012, 10:53 PM by Don Jorgensen

SIOUX FALLS, SD -

People are sharing memories of the late former Senator George McGovern, who died this week at the age of 90.  McGovern made a lasting impression on lots of people, including journalists who covered him during his 1972 Presidential bid.

Former KELO-TV anchor Steve Hemmingsen says McGovern, unknowingly, gave him his first and only national scoop.

As the nation watched the results come in at a snails pace during the1972 Presidential election, McGovern was camped out at the downtown Holiday Inn in Sioux Falls.

"I was supposed to get an interview because of the KELO connection," Hemmingsen said.

Hemmingsen says he was covering the McGovern campaign that night and had called one of McGovern's campaign managers, Owen Donley, looking for an exclusive interview.

"I said, 'I'm supposed to get an interview for KELO,' and Donley says, 'Well, he's asleep,'" Hemmingsen said. "Well, I couldn't wait to get on the air with that tidbit; this was the Armageddon of elections." 

After Hemmingsen did, CBS grabbed it and told the entire nation that McGovern was sleeping and that the rigors of the campaign must have worn him out.

McGovern lost the election in a landslide, losing every state but one, to Republican Richard Nixon.

Hemmingsen says the devastating defeat won't be McGovern's legacy, but rather a man who had a passion to take care of people, like feeding the hungry.

"You know I would hope so because that was from the heart," Hemmingsen said.

And a man who told you exactly what he thought. 

"I think for a lot of South Dakotans, he'll be remembered as a flaming liberal, but I think for a lot of others, he'll be remembered as the last truly honest politician," Hemmingsen said.

McGovern's funeral is this Friday at 1 p.m. at the Washington Pavilion in the Mary W. Sommervold Hall.  KELO-TV will be carrying the services live. You can also watch it on the KELOLAND.com Live Coverage page.

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