Wednesday, February 11, 2009

News Conferences

At the American Presidency Project, you can access presidential news conferences back to 1929.

The earliest one they have is one from 1929 with Herbert Hoover, which has a nice background on press conferences in it as well as a discussion of the "rules" - what a strange concept in reporters!

Tuesday, March 5, 1929, Noon

THE PRESIDENT. It seems that the whole press of the United States has given me the honor of a call this morning.

Before we undertake other questions, I wish to say a word about the press conference. I would like the conference to continue as before with the same understandings as those which you had with President Coolidge. I wish, further, your cooperation on further development of these conferences. As you know, the relations of the President and the press have been a matter of development over a number of administrations, starting most actively perhaps under President [Theodore] Roosevelt, going through one experimental stage to another down to the present time. By degrees a means has been found for a more intimate relationship, and I have an impression that we might develop it even further in those directions which would assist the press and assist the President.

I would like to suggest that Mr. [John R.] Young, who is the president of the White House [Correspondents] Association, make up a committee of the heads of bureaus and services to discuss the matter with me on some early occasion as to how we can further amplify these relations. I am anxious to clear up the twilight zone as far as we can between [p.13] authoritative and quotable material on one hand, and such material as I am able to give from time to time for purely background purposes on the other. I wish to be of such service as I can in these conferences, and beyond this, in matters of special character that are not of general interest, I would be glad to see any of you from time to time. I want you to feel free to make such suggestions as will help me out in that direction.

Now as to the immediate questions, you will all understand that I am not in a position at so early a moment as this to begin the declaration of a public policy on current issues.

THE INSURRECTION IN MEXICO

The questions this morning nearly all relate to the Mexican situation.1 They all relate to the question, or most of them, to the transportation of arms. You are aware that there has been an embargo on the shipment of arms to Mexico since January 1924, except under licenses from the Federal Government. Those licenses have been issued from time to time for the shipment of arms to the Government of Mexico. I see no occasion to change the policy that has been in force during the whole of the last 5 years.

1 An insurrection, led by General Jose Gonzalo Escobar, broke out on March 3, 1929.

Q. Are those licenses issued by the Secretary of State ?

THE PRESIDENT. By the Secretary of State. One other question relates to what other information we may have as to the disturbances. We are not now better informed than the press. We have nothing, in fact, that we have to add to this as to the revolutionary centers. As to this you are probably getting the full volume of that yourself.

COMMISSION TO STUDY LAW ENFORCEMENT

One other question relates to the time I shall appoint the commission that I mentioned yesterday. I notice it is referred to as a prohibition matter. It is not. It is a question of the whole problem of law enforcement. I shall confer with the new Attorney General at an early date as to the constitution of that body.

QUOTATION OF NEWS CONFERENCE REMARKS

Q. Would you consider giving out the text of your remarks as to the relations between the President and the press ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I do not think I should. There is no very great public interest in it.

Q. Yes, I think it is. It is a new point of view, Mr. President, over a period of years--and it will read very well.

THE PRESIDENT. That is encouraging from a friend. If you think it is of any help, go ahead. I would like for Mr. Young to go ahead with an arrangement of some sort so that we can confer. I generally wish to see us develop a relationship between the press and the President that will be helpful and feasible in the proper conduct of affairs and at the same time of maximum assistance to you. I have no revolutions to propose, but I think, out of experience, we can accomplish something from time to time and probably in the course of 50 years develop it to perfection.

Q. You want it understood, Mr. President, that the present rules are to be observed, and that you are not to be quoted directly or indirectly?

THE PRESIDENT. That is the rule.

Q. Only when a transcript is given out it is to be quoted ?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no objection to your writing it yourselves. I leave it to you to present it in what you think a perfectly fair fashion.

Q. I understand that you will have a transcript made of these particular remarks.

THE PRESIDENT. We will have a transcript made.

Q. We can use that as coming directly from you ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

I have been enjoying these, so will probably post a few more over the next few days. I like that they cover a variety of subjects!

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