Presidential Press Conferences: A Critical Approach

By Carolyn Smith | Go to book overview

Chapter One
The Adversarial Relationship

HOW REAGAN SET THE LIMITS: A CASE STUDY

Ronald Reagan turned to an aide at the end of a picture session. "Sons of bitches," he muttered, referring to the assembled reporters.1

News microphones inadvertently recorded the president's private aside because technicians had not finished disconnecting the sound system.

Later that day, February 28, 1986, as President Reagan left for Camp David, the reporters inevitably followed up. "Whom did you have in mind if not us?" they wanted to know.

The president grinned. "I thought it was one of you saying it about us."

"No," insisted a press corps chorus.

The president concluded with characteristic boyish innocence, "It wasn't me."2

Reporters turned to presidential spokesman Larry Speakes. He replied that the president "doesn't recall saying it -- he doesn't recall anybody else saying it. If he said anything, he said, 'It's sunny, and you're rich.' "3

All three networks aired the videotape and the administration denials that night. Correspondents explained how it was that the president happened to question the parentage of the White House press corps.4 The full story appeared in a small item on page 7 of The New York Times the next day.5

America chuckled at the exchange. It was one of those funny moments in the continuing adversarial relationship between Ronald Reagan and the White House press corps. The incident was over; it did not reappear in commentaries, even in the Sunday newspapers, two days later.

-1-

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Presidential Press Conferences: A Critical Approach
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword xi
  • Notes xiii
  • Introduction: the Limits of Press Conference Reform xv
  • Notes xix
  • Chapter One - The Adversarial Relationship 1
  • Notes 12
  • Chapter Two - Evolution of the Adversarial Press Conference 15
  • Notes 52
  • Chapter Three - Persuasion and Accountability: Press Conference Goals 65
  • Notes 77
  • Chapter Four - The Press Conference Agenda 79
  • Notes 91
  • Chapter Five - The Press Conference Structure 93
  • Notes 108
  • Chapter Six - Good Questions and Good Answers 109
  • Notes 123
  • Chapter Seven - Reagan and the Press: Establishing The Benchmark 125
  • Notes 139
  • Chapter Eight - A Criticism of the Opening Salvo 143
  • Notes 202
  • Chapter Nine - The "Jelly Bean Lottery": An Experiment in Tepidness 209
  • Notes 241
  • Selected Bibliography 245
  • Index 255
  • About the Author 261
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