The Questions of a Blunt Man

Bernard Shaw has a reputation for bluntness. He lived up to it last fall in the second presidential campaign debate when he popped “the Kitty question.”

It was his opening question to Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis: Would the Massachusetts governor, who opposes the death penalty, change his mind if his wife, Kitty, had been raped and murdered? Mrs. Dukakis, among others, sharply criticized the question.

Shaw, who says he carefully considered it, has no regrets. “No, I wouldn’t have asked it differently,” he says. “In fact, that’s why I was up until 2 o’clock on the morning of the debate. But finally I decided, this is the question that should be asked. I told myself, ‘Do your job.’ ”

The public reaction? “The mail just came in a deluge . . . it was just written vitriol. For every nine letters, I got one that was favorable . . . and out of all my mail I would say that 10% was racist.”


Shaw also caused controversy during the 1988 GOP convention when he asked vice presidential nominee Dan Quayle if “fear of being killed in Vietnam” was the reason he had joined the Indiana National Guard. Shaw, who still feels “that was a proper question,” says the mail he got for asking it “was slightly more critical than complimentary,” except for one group of viewers--Vietnam veterans.

“All their letters were pungent and to the point--approving of the question,” he says.