Inside George McGovern’s painful night

EMTs place George McGovern in an ambulance Friday outside the McGovern Library in Mitchell as DWU President Bob Duffett looks on. (Chris Huber/Daily Republic)

First and foremost,  George McGovern is apparently recovering and doing OK in a Sioux Falls hospital. We published this update Saturday.

Here’s a  tweet from his grandson, Matt McGovern, issued around noon Saturday:

“Thank you all for the well-wishes, my grandpa is doing alright and recovering at the hospital.”

That is welcome news today after seeing the aftermath of his fall Friday. It wasn’t pretty.

It was around 5:45 p.m. Friday. I was at The Daily Republic office working on other stories and preparing to head to  Dakota Wesleyan University to watch the live C-SPAN show “The Contenders,” which would feature McGovern in the 13th of 14 episodes on men who ran for the presidency and lost but made a difference.

We did a preview story for the Friday MDR and also published a new blog packed with info on McGovern. It will be constantly updated.

The show was set to start at 7 p.m. and photographer Chris Huber and I planned to get to the McGovern Center around 6:45 p.m. McGovern wasn’t going to be on until 8:30 p.m. He was going to eat dinner, munch on a brownie and watch the first 90 minutes of videos and comments on TV with his daughter Ann, Don Simmons from the McGovern Center and others.

I w as lucky enough to be invited as well.

Instead, we heard a report on the scanner about an elderly man down by the McGovern Museum. A minute later, it was said the man was 89 — McGovern’s age. I was out the door in less than a minute and soon at the center, where an ambulance had backed up to a door and people milled about.

I hustled up and was stunned by what I saw. McGovern’s face was bruised and bloody and he sat in a chair just inside the center, wrapped in a bloody pink quilt. His daughter, Simmons, DWU President Bob Duffett, the C-SPAN producer and other people were standing around, looking dazed, as two paramedics worked with McGovern.

He was able to respond to questions and knew the day and date. After ensuring he was stable, the paramedics placed a back board on a gurney and placed him on it. Soon McGovern was in the ambulance and it rolled toward Avera Queen of Peace Hospital.

I asked the C-SPAN producer what his plan was. “The show must go on,” Pete Daniels said.

And it did. It was a solid effort with interesting insights on McGovern’s career from the great reporter and author Jules Witcover, who covered McGovern’s runs for the White House in 1968 and 1972, and author Scott Farris, who wrote “Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation.”

It will be repeated on C-SPAN Sunday morning and again around Christmas when all 14 shows will be packaged  together.

We watched the show at the center — the brownies were excellent — while Simmons checked for news updates on his laptop  and made and took calls. One thing  was evident: This was so unfair.  McGovern had looked forward to the show and a chance to discuss his life, career and goals.

Ann McGovern followed her dad to the hospital with Duffett and returned a couple hours later to get her car and head to Sioux Falls. George McGovern was being taken via helicopter to a Sioux Falls hospital.

Ironically, the fall garnered McGovern far more attention than the two hours of air time on a little-seen politics and policy network. His accident and condition have been reported atop websites across the nation, from CNN (which got several facts wrong) to The New York Times.

The South Dakota media has of course focused on it as well, although KELO actually ran two  feature stories Friday night before reporting his fall. Strange.

Today, we are told McGovern is recovering and I will give his family space and peace. We will offer updates as we learn more.

2 thoughts on “Inside George McGovern’s painful night

  1. What wonderful news that the Senator is recovering! All of our prayers and thoughts are with him and his family at this moment. May he have many more happy years of accomplishment and the love of his family, friends, and supporters.

    With love,

    Pastor Kevin Paulson

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