What Presidents Think of the Press

Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.

—President Thomas Jefferson

Bob, go put on the dunce cap and stand in the corner.

—President Franklin D. Roosevelt to New York Times reporter Bob Post at a White House press conference

If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would be “President Can’t Swim.”

—President Lyndon B. Johnson

I want it clearly understood that from now on, ever, no reporter from The Washington Post is ever to be in the White House.

—President Richard Nixon to his press secretary Ron Ziegler
Boston.com ran a February 2017 piece, “Presidents vs. the press: What came before Trump’s ‘running war’ with the media.” A quote from Thomas Patterson, the Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Harvard Kennedy School, about President William Clinton and the press:

“President Clinton felt that they really mistreated him, misunderstood him, didn’t pay attention to policy accomplishments and got hung up on a dozen different kinds of scandals and whiffs of scandals and wouldn’t let go of those.”

From a March 2017 Politico piece by Matt Latimer about President George W. Bush and the press:

Sentiments inside the Bush administration toward the media hardened. Under fire from all directions on nearly every issue, the attitude was both human and understandable: These guys are biased against us; there’s no point in engaging them. Certain networks no longer appeared on many White House office TV screens. Administration officials tended to veer toward more friendly, or at least sympathetic, networks and outlets. That was not in and of itself a terrible strategy—especially in the current era in which there are far more alternatives than ever.

From a December 2016 story in The Hill about President Barack Obama and the press:

Ann Compton, ABC News  called Obama “the least transparent of the seven presidents I’ve covered.”

Veteran Washington correspondent Josh Meyer agreed, “In the Obama administration, there is across-the-board hostility to the media.”

David Sanger of The New York Times added bluntly, “This is the most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered.”


  1. Philip Graham re HST prior to 1948 election: “If he wins, I’ll eat my hat.” A gloating Truman watched as Graham feigned eating his hat after November 2nd.

Speak Your Mind