Steve Symms

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Steve Symms (Republican) is a former U.S. Congressman and later Senator from Idaho.

During the 1988 U.S. presidential election, Symms claimed in a radio interview that a photograph existed from the 1960s showing Kitty Dukakis, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, burning an American flag to protest the Vietnam war. Kitty Dukakis angrily denied the accusation as "totally false and beneath contempt," and Symms later admitted that he could not substantiate it. Nevertheless, the claim became national news, as media outlets began searching for the photograph Symms said he had "heard" about.

The flag-burning story was one of several false rumors about Dukakis that circulated during the 1988 campaign. "Mr. Symms's comment was the third time in a few days that prominent Republicans have publicly aired allegations that the Democrats have swiftly rebutted," the New York Times reported. "The allegations come at a time when Republicans are struggling to shift the campaign focus away from his Vice-Presidential running mate, Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, and questions about his Vietnam era service in the National Guard."

The campaign of George H.W. Bush denied playing a role in spreading the rumors, but the stories helped erode Dukakis' 17-point lead in opinion polls, and Bush went on to win the election. In 1991, Bush campaign advisor Lee Atwater, after being stricken with terminal brain cancer, wrote a deathbed apology for his role in orchestrating unfair attacks on Dukakis.

According to Salon magazine, during Symms' time in Washington, he "gained something of a sexual legend over his eight years in the House that grew larger once he was in the Senate; it was widely known among reporters that he was a big-time D.C. party animal and could be seen most evenings in the company of a woman other than his wife, Fran. She in fact was a kind, sweet woman who suffered terribly from arthritis and couldn't socialize much. Most of the state's political reporters knew about the situation but figured it was no one's business unless Symms made it an issue. However, when Fran finally had enough and divorced him, the emergent details of his philandering - and the ensuing shelled-out poll numbers - persuaded him to not pursue reelection in 1992." [1]

Upon his retirement, Symms formed his own consulting firm, Symms, Lehn Associates, Inc. In January 1999 he joined with John Haddow to form Symms & Haddow Associates. In January 2001, he joined forces with Parry, Romani and DeConcini to form Parry, Romani, DeConcini and Symms.

He also serves as a director on the corporate boards of Albertson's, Boise Air Service and Symms Fruit Ranch, and is a member of the board of directors for the American Conservative Union, the Foundation for Economic Education, Ashland University's School of Public Service, and Albertson College.

Helen Chenoweth, served as chief of staff for Symms (and was rumored to be romantically linked to him as well), and was later elected to his former seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.


  • Christopher B. Daly, "Campaign Says Kitty Dukakis Rumor 'Beneath Contempt,'" Associated Press, August 25, 1988.
  • "Story on Mrs. Dukakis Is Denied by Campaign," New York Times, August 26, 1988, p. D17.
  • Joan Vennochi, "Well ... You Know What I Heard?" Boston Globe, September 2, 1988, p. 25.
  • David Neiwert, "Lives of the Republicans, Part Two,", September 16, 1998.