With the recent death of former US President Gerald Ford, New Yorkers and former New Yorkers everywhere must remember some of the most famous words never spoken.

The story in very brief. In the 1970s, New York City - like all of urban America - was falling apart. New York was on the brink of bankruptcy, and City officials were seeking a federal loan to stay afloat. According to the New York's Daily News, this was the response:


By now we all know Ford never actually used those words, but the headline may have cost Ford (who was both an unelected vice-president and president) the presidency the following year: Jimmy Carter narrowly carried New York State.

Not only did Ford never actually say "drop dead" - although he arguably implied it - he soon changed his mind. Only a few months later, Ford signed legislation providing federal loans to New York, which were repaid with interest.

Now, taking the revisionist history one step further, people who were involved with the City at the time acknowledge that Ford's response and timing were probably good, if unwelcome, medicine for the struggling City. Sam Roberts of the New York Times had a good story about this a few days ago, full of Big New York Names like Felix Rohatyn, Victor Gotbaum, Henry Stern, Ed Koch, Abe Beame and Hugh Carey. The infamous PR man Howard Rubenstein, who advised Mayor Beame at the time, says Ford's speech and the News headline "galvanized New York like I've never seen before". He says a framed copy of the newspaper hangs on his office wall.

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