Thursday, February 19, 2009

News Conference Rules

I posted on news conferences last week and I have another one to share. This is Harry Truman's first one and he, like Hoover, goes over the "rules." I’m not sure the modern press has any concept of “rules!” This also includes a lot of issues arising from the end of World War II and overall, I think it is a very interesting read! It also includes a note from Eleanor Roosevelt on the outpouring of sympathy that followed FDR's death.

Tuesday, April 17, 1945, 10:30 AM

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] The first thing I want to do to you is to read the rules.

"News emanating from the President's conferences with the press will continue to be divided in categories already known to you, and in keeping with the practice of President Roosevelt's news meetings with the press.

"These categories are: first, off the record, confidential announcements which are to be kept secret by the newspapermen attending the conferences and not passed on by them to outsiders.

"Background--or not for attribution--information which may be given to the press for its guidance and use, the source of which cannot be published nor disclosed. In other words, it cannot be attributed to the President.

"News information which may be attributed to the President, when it is given to the press by the President at his conferences, but which cannot be directly quoted.

"Statements by the President cannot be directly quoted, unless he gives special permission."

[2.] Now, I have asked Mr. Early and Mr. Hassett, Mr. Daniels and Judge Rosenman, and they have offered to stay and help me get things organized, for which I am very grateful. And my staff will stand the training with those gentlemen.

I have asked Mr. Connelly to be my Confidential Secretary. Mr. Reinsch is going to help me with press and radio affairs.

Q. Mr. President, can you give us that full name?

THE PRESIDENT. Matthew J. Connelly.

Q. How do you spell it?

THE PRESIDENT. Leonard Reinsch. Connelly spells it the Irish way. [Laughter]

Q. How does Mr. Reinsch spell his name?

THE PRESIDENT. How is that?

Q. Reinsch--how does he spell his name?

THE PRESIDENT. R-e-i-n-c-h--S-c-h--there's an S in there. I forgot the S.

Q. Can we have something about where he is from?

THE PRESIDENT. He has been a radio executive for Governor Cox. Mr. Connelly has been with me all the time. Mr. Reinsch was connected with the National Committee during the last campaign as the radio expert for the National Committee. So I got acquainted with him. And he is efficient, I will tell you that. And so is Mr. Connelly. So are all these other gentlemen. That is no reflection on anybody, you understand? [Laughter]

[3.] I received a communication from Mrs. Roosevelt which I want to read to you. You will be given a mimeographed copy of it as you go out. This is dated April 16, 1945.

"My dear Mr. President:

"There have been many thousands of letters, telegrams and cards sent to me and my children which have brought great comfort and consolation to all of us. This outpouring of affectionate thought has touched us all deeply and we wish it were possible to thank each and every one individually.

"My children and I feel, in view of the fact that we are faced with the paper shortage and are asked not to use paper when it can be avoided, that all we can do is to express our appreciation collectively. We would therefore consider it a great favor if you would be kind enough to express our gratitude for us.

"Sincerely, Eleanor Roosevelt."

[4.] Now, there has been some question as to where I stand on various things, particularly Bretton Woods.

And I am for it. We need an international monetary setup. And I would have supported that proposition had I stayed in the Senate, and I would have done everything I possibly could as Vice President to help the President get it through the Senate.

I am for it all the way. I hope that is plain enough.

Q. Does that include also the monetary fund--stabilization--

THE PRESIDENT. It includes the program as sent to the Congress by the President. That is as plain as I can make it.

And I believe that's all.

If you want to ask me anything, I will try to answer; and if I don't know, I will tell you.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, in that same connection, would you say, just for the record, on reciprocal trade, has the President requested--

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. That was the other thing I wanted to mention.

Q.--about the Export-Import Bank?

THE PRESIDENT. I am for the reciprocal trade agreements program. Always have been for it. I think you will find in the record where I stood before, when it was up in the Senate before, and I haven't changed.

[6.] Q. What about the Johnson Act repeal?

THE PRESIDENT. You mean the Johnson Act now pending for repeal?

Q. No, the Johnson Act which prohibits loans by private individuals to the defaulted governments.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is a matter I will have to look into and study. I haven't given it any thought. I can't answer that question at this time. I will answer it for you later.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, are you going ahead with the public power ambitions of your predecessor?

THE PRESIDENT. Wherever it is possible and necessary, I am.

Q. Mr. President, in that connection the term of TVA Chairman Lilienthal will be expiring in a
few months-

THE PRESIDENT. I am not discussing appointments this morning of any sort. I am--when it comes to me to meet that situation, I will meet it; and you will know about it.

Q. Mr. President, could you tell us how you feel about the Missouri Valley Authority ?
THE PRESIDENT. I think I made a speech in New Orleans endorsing the Missouri Valley Authority. I advise you to read that speech.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, probably as much as any group, the passing of President Roosevelt is very keenly felt by the Negroes in America, as they looked upon him as sort of a symbol of justice and equal opportunity. I wonder if you would comment on the things that they were so specifically interested in and felt they knew where the President stood: on the fair employment practice, the
right to vote without being hampered by poll taxes, and all that?

THE PRESIDENT. I will give you some advice. All you need to do is to read the Senate record of one Harry S. Truman.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, do you mind discussing a companion piece to the Missouri Valley Authority, about the St. Lawrence ? Can you tell us anything about that?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to discuss that this morning.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, is there any possibility that you will go to the United Nations Conference
at San Francisco near the end?

THE PRESIDENT. There is not.

Q. Will you send a message, Mr. President, to the San Francisco Conference ?

THE PRESIDENT. I shall probably welcome the delegates by an opening statement, when they arrive for their first meeting.

Q. Over the radio?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Could you tell us, Mr. President, some of the considerations that led to your decision not to go to San Francisco ?

THE PRESIDENT. I have a competent delegation going to San Francisco to negotiate and represent the interests of the United States. I shall back them up from this desk right here--[knocking on it]--where I belong.

[11..] Q. Do you expect to see Mr. Molotov before he goes across--

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do.

Q.--before he goes to San Francisco?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. He is going to stop by and pay his respects to the President of the United States. He should.

Q. When do you expect him to arrive?

[12.] Q. Can you tell us something about your visit with the American delegation this morning?

THE PRESIDENT. I have told you--I have already told you exactly what I said to them.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, will Mr. Byrnes go to San Francisco in any capacity?

THE PRESIDENT. He will not. Mr. Byrnes is going back to South Carolina, and when I need his
advice I shall send for him.

Q. Have you any plans for Mr. Byrnes to take any public office?

THE PRESIDENT. I have not.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, do you have a desire, as soon as possible, to meet the other Allied leaders--Marshal Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill ?

THE PRESIDENT. I should be very happy to meet them, and General Chiang Kai-shek also. And General de Gaulle; if he wants to see me I will be glad to see him. I would like to meet all of the Allied heads of governments.

Q. Have you initiated any move towards that end, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I have not.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, do you approve of the work of the Truman Committee? [Laughter]

[16.] THE PRESIDENT. There was another announcement I wanted to make. It was about these press conferences. Due to the fact that I have such a terrific burden to assume, I am going to have only one press conference a week. I shall have one in the morning and one in the afternoon--turnabout--week about. And I shall have that press conference on the days in the middle of the week as soon as I think I have something to say, or news to give out; and you will be notified, in plenty of time so that you can come right down here Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday of each week; but I am not setting any specific day nor any specific hour, but to say that one will be in the morning and the next one will be in the afternoon.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, will Mrs. Truman have a press conference?

THE PRESIDENT. Beg your pardon?

Q. Will Mrs. Truman have a regular press conference?

THE PRESIDENT. I would rather not answer that question at this time. Mrs. Roosevelt is having her last meeting with the ladies of the press on Thursday, and that question will be answered at a later date.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, there are published reports that your administration plans to lift the ban on horse racing. Can you comment on that?

Voices: Louder--louder.

THE PRESIDENT. Say it again, so that they can hear it. [Laughter]

Q. There are published reports that your administration plans to lift the ban on horse racing. Can you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. I do not intend to lift the ban.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, can you give us your views on the disposal of synthetic rubber plants?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I cannot. That is not a matter for discussion here. It will be discussed at the proper time.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, can you say anything about the Cabinet?

THE PRESIDENT. No. Of course, I asked the Cabinet to remain. That is as much as I want to say.

Q. Mr. President--

Q. Mr. President, what is your feeling--

THE PRESIDENT. Let this fellow have a chance back here. You're in the front row. [Laughter]

[21.] Q. Does that statement of yours on horse racing apply to the ban on the brownout and the curfew too?

THE PRESIDENT. I think they have done a lot of good for the morale all over the country, and I have no intention of pushing Mr. Byrnes' office.
Somebody over here? [Indicating another questioner]

Q. Started to ask you if that applied after V-E Day ?

THE PRESIDENT. Let's wait for V-E Day to come, and I will take care of the situation at that time.

Now, what was your question? I beg your pardon, the lady wants to ask a question. [Laughter]

[22.] Q. Mr. President, there is a story out that Stalin had reachedan agreement with the new Polish Government approved by the United States and Britain. Can you comment?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to discuss that at this conference. Now, what was your question?
Q. It has been asked, sir. [Laughter]

1 comment:

schiller1979 said...

I'm not sure whether the rules about attribution, being "off the record", etc., have changed.

But the manner of seeking recognition on the part of the reporters has changed. It used to be that, after an answer, everyone would jump up and shout "Mr. President, Mr. President!"

If I remember right, it was Reagan who changed that. At his conferences, the reporters were told to sit quietly and wait to be called on.

At President Obama's first press conference, he seemed to be reading names off a pre-determined list. I was wondering whether there is some new procedure for getting on that list.