26 years ago today: McConnell accused of exaggerating his record; Humana bans smoking — and an infant girl named Jennifer Lawrence is born

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

CJ front page August 15 1990
26 years ago today.

On Aug. 15, 1990, The Courier-Journal delivered a 52-page paper chock-a-block with news. President George H.W. Bush was rounding up support for an embargo against Iraq, retaliating for its invasion of Kuwait less than two weeks before. Sen. Mitch McConnell, still in his first term, was on the hot seat in his re-election campaign. Kentucky’s powerful tobacco industry still didn’t accept the dangers of smoking. And comedian Bob Hope and his pet poodle were in town. It was a humid Wednesday, with temperatures heading for 86 degrees. The news:

“U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is extolling his 5½-year record with a wide range of radio commercials — at least two of which exaggerate the impact of his work,” CJ political writer Al Cross wrote in a page-one story. “Those two ads say McConnell worked out the financial problems of Big Rivers Electric Corp., and saved the Kentucky construction industry by casting the deciding vote against a presidential veto of a highway bill.”

The record, including statements from company and government officials, contradicted McConnell’s account, Cross said. But the Louisville Republican vigorously defended the commercials, saying they weren’t inaccurate or misleading. At the time, McConnell faced Democratic nominee Harvey Sloane, the former Louisville mayor and  county judge-executive.

Humana building
Humana Tower
Humana nixes smoking

Citing concerns about deaths linked to passive smoking, Humana said it would ban smoking at its corporate headquarters downtown and in all division offices starting Feb. 1, 1991. The health insurance giant’s decision came after a June report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that about 3,800 lung-cancer related deaths per year among non-smokers are caused by secondhand cigarette smoke. Humana estimated only 1 in 7 employeees smoked, a decrease of about 35% from several years before.

The story noted that “the tobacco industry, which has never agreed that smoking is a hazard even to smokers themselves, has attacked the EPA findings as unsubstantiated.”

Comedian Bob Hope signed copies of his new book, “Don’t Shoot, It’s Only Me,” at the W.K. Stewart Booksellers in the Holiday Manor Shopping Center. The 87-year-old stayed at the Galt House with his wife Dolores and their poodle Baxter.

Bacons logoThat day’s CJ carried three full-page ads for Louisville-based Bacon’s Department Store, and four full pages of business news, including 2½ pages of stock listings. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had closed the day before at nearly 2,748 points.

ValuMarket was selling half-gallon cartons of Sealtest ice cream for $1.98. TWA offered roundtrip tickets to New York City for $158.

And unknown to most everyone reading that day’s paper, Jennifer Shrader Lawrence was born to Gary Lawrence, a construction worker, and his wife Karen, a children’s camp manager.


Iraq is still a mess.

McConnell won his first senate re-election campaign, beating Sloane by 4.4 points. Now the Senate majority leader, McConnell, 74, says he’ll likely run for re-election in 2020. Sloane, 80, was honored last April for helping start the Kentucky Derby Festival’s mini-marathon.

Four years after Humana instituted its smoking ban, the CEOs of the seven major U.S. tobacco companies testified under oath during a congressional hearing that nicotine wasn’t addictive. They included Thomas Sandefur Jr., chairman and chief executive of Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp., then based in Louisville. Here’s video of that moment:

Sandefur died in July 1996 in Louisville of aplastic anemia, a blood disease; he was 56. Two years later, Brown & Williamson and the three other remaining U.S. tobacco giants were largely brought to heel when they settled a massive lawsuit filed by 46 state attorneys general seeking to recover tobacco-related health-care costs.

Brown & Williamson abandoned the city in July 2004 when its U.S. operations merged with R.J. Reynolds.

Humana and Aetna logos 250Humana is now trying to merge with Aetna of Hartford in a $37 billion deal that’s currently being blocked by the Justice Department.

Comedian Hope died in 2003; he was 100 years old.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed yesterday at 18,576 vs. 2,758 points 26 years ago.

TWA filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001, and American Airlines absorbed its assets. United Airlines offers non-stop roundtrip flights to New York City next month for as little as $305; adjusted inflation, that’s nearly the same as TWA’s in 1990.

Silver Linings Playbook posterThe Bacon’s brand disappeared in 1998. Department store ads have mostly dried up in newspapers amid a consolidation of the retail industry.

Today’s CJ had 30 pages vs. 52 the day Lawrence was born. Weekdays, there’s no longer a dedicated business section, and only a shadow of one on Sundays.

And Lawrence is now one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. She won a best-actress Oscar playing a depressed widow in the 2012 romantic comedy “Silver Linings Playbook” with Bradley Cooper. She was paid $20 million for “Passengers,” which is set for a Dec. 21 release.

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