Lest anyone think this current presidential campaign is particularly nasty, consider the history of mudslinging.
History shows that these sorts of unsupportable attacks and seemingly childish antics are not new to the election game. Candidates for all sorts of public office have engaged in name calling and public denunciations of their opponents from America's earliest days as a democracy.
Not even one of our most admired founding fathers was safe from personal attacks. According to a BBC news article, during the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson was "accused of favoring the teaching of 'murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest,'" by his opponent.
Perhaps one of the most venomous elections was in 1828, when John Quincy Adams was running for President against General Andrew Jackson. According the same BBC news article, Adams was "nicknamed 'The Pimp' by the campaign of his opponent…based on a rumour that he had once coerced a young woman into an affair with a Russian nobleman when he had been American ambassador to Russia."
In response, Adams' supporters came out with a pamphlet which read: "General Jackson's mother was a common prostitute brought to this country by British solders! She afterwards married a mulatto man with whom she had several children of which number General Jackson is one!!"
Then, there was the relentless slander and ridicule that Lincoln endured. According to an article in the Bradenton Herald, his opponents made fun of his "slang-whanging stump speaker" style, Newspapers made fun of his looks ("a horrid looking wretch"), and cartoonists pictured him in racist scenarios. One man from Georgia proclaimed that Lincoln planned to "force inter-marriage between children - that 'within 10 years or less our children will be the slaves of Negroes.'"
Merely two decades later, during Grover Cleveland's election in 1884, Cleveland, the son of a Presbyterian minister, was accused of fathering an illegitimate child, according to a Scripps Howard News Service article. Cleveland's supporters in turn called his opponent a liar.
By the 1950's, with America's red scare shadowing over much of the country, sympathy with communism replaced sex scandals as the most vitriolic accusation one candidate could hurl at another. Scripps Howard News Service article reports that Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy even accused the entire administration of President Harry Truman of harboring communists.