In what critics are describing as a “shameless effort” to remain relevant, former President Jimmy Carter has agreed to eat a live bullfrog next Sunday night on the CBS program “Sixty Minutes”.
CBS execs are clearly thrilled, predicting a ratings bonanza beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. “The broadcast will be live,” said CBS President Les Moonves, quipping “as will the frog.” But friends close to the Carters are not amused, fearing the stunt will tarnish the former President’s legacy. But Carter remains defiant, describing the act as a “vindication” and as a “valentine” to his rural childhood in Plains, Georgia.
Veteran media watchers are puzzled, calling the whole thing “bizarre”. Some have suggested Carter was stung by the controversy over his remark that cast SC Congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst as “racially motivated.” Eating a small amphibian on a nationally-televised program would serve to “turn the page”, with the added boon of possibly revitalizing the former President as a player on the international stage.
Carter was also thought to be upset that “Dancing With the Stars” had recently rejected him as a contestant. Learning they had welcomed the participation of former House Whip Tom Delay was “the last straw”, according to his wife, former First Lady Rosalyn Carter, who told one friend that while casting about for a way to “leap-frog” ahead of his detractors, her husband’s thoughts had drifted to an incident from 1934, when he was eleven. That memory seems to have sparked the idea for the “Sixty Minutes” appearance. But details of this incident remain unclear, although Carter’s late brother Billy spoke of it in a 1978 interview:
“There was an old redneck feller who lived in a shack by the river. Everybody called him ole Frawg, but I never knew why. My brother Jimmy and I would go down there to taunt him and chunk rocks at him. But one time that man taught us a lesson. One rock hit ole Frawg in the small of the back and he went down. Jimmy run over to see if he was still breathing, but as soon as he got close, ole Frawg grabbed him by the ankle! The old feller was just playing possum! He drug Jimmy to his shack and I ran home. Later on, when Jimmy came home he told me that ole Frawg had said, “You boys think you kin get the better of ole Frawg. But ole Frawg gonna teach you a lesson.” Then he reached down into a cedar bucket and pulled out a bullfrog as big as his fist and he talked to it real tender, callin’ it his brother. And then he chawed the critter’s head off. Jimmy started crying, but ole Frawg said it didn’t taste half-bad. He said his tastebuds wasn’t worth a damn on accounta he smoked so much ter-backy. And he allowed as that old frog was in a better place than that stinky bucket. Years later, when he had become a midshipman at Anapolis, Jimmy told me how the story had affected him, and how some day he’d tell the world about ole Frawg.”