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Rocca's humorous Millard Fillmore piece gets stamp of approval

By Alan Pergament

CBS correspondent Mo Rocca's piece on President Millard Fillmore today on "Sunday Morning" was much funnier and spicier than his mildly amusing piece on Super Bowl Sunday on chicken wings.

You could say that Rocca was back at the top of his game.

Besides Rocca's sense of humor, the success of the Fillmore piece had a lot to do with the Western New Yorkers who went along for the ride in which Rocca made fun of Fillmore's name and his awful standing as a president.

They were a lot more fun than the "cool" WNY trio in the chicken wing piece.

Kathy Frost, the curator of the Millard Fillmore Presidential site, may have a second career coming as a comedian.

After explaining that people came from as far away as China, Korea and Cuba to visit the site, Rocca cracked: "Someone escaped from Cuba just to see the Millard Fillmore home."

"It was on his bucket list," she deadpanned.

When she defended the 13th president for signing the notorious Fugitive Slave Act by saying it was a small part of a compromise legislation, Rocca asked if she was a Fillmore apologist giving a positive spin for an embarrassing presidential act.

"I'm a Fillmore groupie," she said.

Robert Goller, the direcor of the Aurora Historical Society which operates the Fillmore museum, got into the act by suggesting that Fillmore's biggest accomplishment was lowering the price of a postage stamp.

Standing near the Fillmore grave site, University at Buffalo professor Claude Welch noted that Buffalonians have a sense of pride about Fillmore even while acknowledging his low place in history as a president isn't about to improve.

Rocca then asked Welch if he felt guilty about saying that in front of Fillmore's gravesite.

"Millard, do you mind?" Welch shouted toward the gravesite.

And then there was Fillmore biographer Paul Finkelman, who said he chose his presidential subject because President Jefferson and President Lincoln were taken and Fillmore was available.

Finkelman noted that Fillmore was bigoted against Catholics and Jews and hated blacks and was considered the seventh or eighth worst president in history. He added he hoped his book would place Fillmore where he belongs -- in the bottom five.

Seeking some sort of balance, Rocca then reminded Finkelman that Fillmore lowered the price of stamps.

"He did lower the price of the postal stamp," said Finkelman. "Mazel Tov."

Then Professor Welch put the pride Buffalonians feel about Fillmore in perspective.

"Not as much pride as chicken wings or beef on weck," he told Rocca.

It was about as far from Chamber of Commerce material as Fillmore was from being a good president, but Rocca's funny piece deserved the stamp of approval. It was priceless.

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