The Adversarial Relationship
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.