The ‘scoop’ on Geraldine Ferraro, like the candidate herself, ran up against the old boy network

The first major-party female vice presidential candidate, like Kamala Harris, gave steady balance to the ticket

SHARE The ‘scoop’ on Geraldine Ferraro, like the candidate herself, ran up against the old boy network

Geraldine Ferraro, talking in front of her Queens home in 1998, became the first major-party female vice presidential candidate when Walter Mondale picked her in 1984. They lost in a landslide to President Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

Kathy Willens/AP


Back in June 1984, a very secret source gave me my first national “scoop.”

It was one of those exclusive stories that lasted about as long as it took ice cream to melt.

It was short and sweet — but it was juicy.

Now that U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris has been chosen our nation’s third female (as well as first Black and of South Asian descent) veep mate, it caused Sneed to pull a little fluid out of the old ink well, a sort of political palimpsest.


Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is the choice to run as the Democratic vice presidential candidate this year.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

It was when U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro was chosen the nation’s first major-party female vice presidential nominee during my stint as co-author of the Chicago Tribune’s old INC. column, a brokerage house of top tips; my beat covering politics, crime and hard news.

I wasn’t credited with a scoop du jour byline back then, but on Wednesday, June 11, 1984, I wrote via INC. that the nation’s first female vice presidential nominee had been selected. Back then, it appeared in the first edition of the morning paper the NEXT day, June 12.

“It’s a girl!” I wrote.

What I didn’t print, but knew, was Ferraro had definitely been chosen by Democratic presidential contender Walter “Fritz” Mondale as his running mate, according to an impeccable source who didn’t want to be identified. The editor was informed before my column went to print. I presume a second source was the issue.

The old boy network was in full force back then. We were women. We cried, after all.

My source was literally in the room where it happened, an emissary sent by private jet to pick up the woman Mondale had just chosen as his running mate.

On June 12, two Tribune male reporters wrote Mondale was poised to make history but still hedged somewhat on Ferraro being a choice written in stone — but noted Ferraro’s name was on a plane list en route to Minnesota, where Mondale would make his VP choice official.

But by then the story was everywhere.

But the story behind the story is divine circumstance unfettered by plain old good luck, a reporter’s USDA grade prime tenderloin steak.

And it did involve a plane.

So here goes:

  • Back shot: Although it was already known in early June 1984 Mondale might make the history books by selecting a woman as his ticket mate, the big question was who?
  • Double shot: It had basically whittled down to then San Francisco Mayor (and current U.S. senator from California) Dianne Feinstein, a brunette — and the flaxen-haired New Yorker, Ferraro.
  • Bank shot: Sneed’s source, still in the dark as to the winner, was dispatched to San Francisco from Chicago, to pick up Mondale’s choice. He immediately phoned me upon landing.

Feeling compelled not to disclose the name, the source only stated: “It’s the blonde.”

Mamma Miaaa! Mondale had chosen a blonde Italian-American Catholic!

Back then, it was reported the very formidable Ferraro’s placement alongside a very sedate Mondale was expected to give his campaign “flair.”

Sound familiar, Kamala? She a formidable former prosecutor who could kick the tootin’ out of Putin.

On July 13, 1984, I quoted a source from the Mondale camp analyzing why Mondale saved the first dance for Ferraro.

“He needed to do something dramatic,” said the source. “His greatest fault is that he appears too predictable — good ol’ safe Walter … she’s his complete opposite — outgoing, literally overflowing with enthusiasm. She adds sizzle whereas he’s laid-back.”

Sound familiar, Kamala?

Mondale once talked to TIME magazine about what Ferraro endured on the campaign trail from the old boy network.

“We went down to Mississippi, and some old farmer said, ‘Young lady, do you make good blueberry muffins?’

“And she said, ‘Yes. Do you?’

(Hmmm. I think Hillary Clinton was asked something about baking cookies. )

“That was the kind of thing that she was bumping up against,” Mondale stated. “She had to keep her cool. She had to be nice about it. And yet she was undergoing a revolution.

Hey, the old boy network is still at work.

And a second source is not required to report an American woman has yet to be elected president of our country.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday birthdays: Joe Jonas, 31; Anthony Anderson, 50; and Debra Messing, 52. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Madonna, 62; Steve Carell, 58; and Angela Bassett, 62.

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