The "Jelly Bean Lottery": An Experiment in Tepidness
The Reagan administration made good on its promise to try the lottery in the second formal press conference, on March 6, 1981, thirty-six days after the opening salvo.
Correspondents who wanted to ask questions put their names on cards that were put into the president's jelly bean jar. Before the news conference, forty names were drawn; those reporters were allowed to ask questions in the order they were drawn. 1 Senior wire service correspondents asked the first two questions, outside the lottery. Reporters were allowed to follow up their own questions.
The press conference was "rued as an experiment in tepidness." 2 UPI's Thomas said, "I think old style pandemonium is preferable." 3 ABC's Donaldson concluded, "It's the President's news conference and he can run it as he pleases, but I'm opposed to that format." 4
Ronald Reagan did not like the format either, and it was never attempted again. On June 16, at the end of the third press conference, this exchange took place between the president and Donaldson. After the customary "thank you," the president turned to Donaldson.
Reagan: We're out? Sam, you told me that it was alright about walking away from all those upraised hands and I have to tell you, it still bothers me very much. I'm sorry that we can't answer all the questions.
Donaldson: But you will, sir.
Reagan: No, I know I can't. I know I can't and I'm sorry.
Donaldson: Do you like it better than the lottery, Mr. President?