Discuss as:

Huntsman not first candidate to use Statue of Liberty as backdrop

When former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) announces for president with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop next week, he won't be the first to do so.

Watchers of the 1996 presidential campaign will remember that former California Gov. Pete Wilson also did so, as NBC's Chuck Todd reminds. And, as NBC's Andrea Mitchell points out, the site was also used as Ronald Reagan's kickoff in 1980, following his official announcement in 1979. (Here's video of Reagan's speech.)

On Aug. 6, 1995, the Washington Post's Paul Taylor and David Broder wrote the following under the headline, "Wilson Chooses Lady Liberty As Symbol for Campaign."

"Let the smart alecks croak that California Gov. Pete Wilson (R) is trying to ride an anti-immigration wave to the White House. He's just picked up the crown jewel of pro-immigration endorsements: the Statue of Liberty. Miss Liberty's picture now appears on the official Wilson campaign stationery, with the words 'Pete Wilson President' superimposed over her left shoulder. She's also expected to serve as the backdrop when Wilson launches his campaign in New York shortly before Labor Day."

The statue, with its references to the "tired" and "poor" and "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" -- courtesy of poet Emma Lazurus -- has taken on different meanings for different people.

Wilson, at the time, was embroiled in a controversy over immigration having just pushed through the Prop 187 ballot initiative a year earlier that "cuts off welfare and education services to illegal immigrants," per the Washington Post.

Some found the site as Wilson's choice for an announcement ironic because of the statue's message, but Wilson's campaign manager told the Washington Post then of Lady Liberty: "She symbolizes the fact that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things in America. The right way is to come with nothing but the clothes on your back, apply legally and accomplish great things. The wrong way is to come illegally."

Today, she has become a hero for the Tea Party, with "liberty" becoming a catch phrase and foam green-pointed head gear at Tea Party rallies. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) made a stop at the statue during her family bus tour through the Northeast last week.

Huntsman, however, is no hero of the Tea Party. His campaign hearkened back to Reagan.

Spokesman Tim Miller, in a Tweet today cited this Reagan quote from when he appeared with the statue in the background: "Let us pledge to each other with this Great Lady looking on, that we can and so help us God we will make America great again."