14 photos that show the complicated relationship between the US presidents and the media

  • Every US president has their own unique relationship with the press.
  • The Associated Press has been documenting the lives of presidents since the early 1930s.
  • Here, a look back at how 14 sitting US presidents have handled dealing with the press.

The US president’s relationship with the press has long been a complicated one, and it has varied from administration to administration. To name just a few examples, President Lyndon B. Johnson attempted to thwart certain stories from going to press, while President Gerald Ford was friendly with journalists and even invited some to White House state dinners.

The Associated Press has been documenting the lives of presidents since the early 1930s, capturing candid moments of each commander-in-chief since President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

From press briefings to interviews aboard Air Force One, here are 14 AP photos of presidents interacting with the press.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt would invite members of the press into the Oval Office for briefings twice a week.

Source: The New York Times

Press briefings don’t come to a halt while the president is on vacation. Here, Harry S. Truman had the press visit his Winter White House in Key West, Florida.

It was President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s press secretary, James Haggerty, that established some still-standing traditions between the president and the press, like regularly scheduled news conferences.

Source: The New York Times

After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy warned the press to limit publishing news that might help American enemies. In that same speech he also said: “No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary.”

Source: The New York Times

President Lyndon B. Johnson reportedly had a lot of charm while talking on the phone, but he was also extremely wary of the press, and at times, he attempted to influence stories. Johnson once called FBI head J. Edgar Hoover for help in suppressing a Washington Post editorial that would call for an investigation into President Kennedy’s assassination.

Source: The Smithsonian

President Richard Nixon was the first president to refer to reporters as “the media.” In 1969, Nixon reportedly instructed Vice President Spiro Agnew to make statements that attacked the press in a similar fashion to opposing political parties. The Washington Post famously broke the news of President Nixon’s Watergate scandal, and while their reporters were still allowed in the press briefing room, they were banned from various White House events.

Source: The Atlantic, The Smithsonian

President Gerald Ford was reportedly friendly to the press. He invited six journalists to his first state dinner, held a week into his presidency.

Source: The Washington Post

President Jimmy Carter held 59 formal news conferences during his term.

Source: The New York Times

By the 1980s, the Reagan administration’s press team had “achieved a new level of control over” over news coverage, according to The New York Times.

Source: The New York Times

During his 1988 presidential campaign, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush criticized TV anchor and journalist Dan Rather after he asked questions about the Iran-Contra scandal.

Source: C-SPAN

President Bill Clinton’s press secretary, Mike McCurry, was the first to allow live television coverage of the White House press briefings. He has noted that viewership went up during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Source: CJR

In 2004, The New Yorker published an extensive article analyzing the relationship between the press and the George W. Bush White House. Writer Ken Auletta said of the administration in an interview: “They reject an assumption embraced by most reporters: that we are neutral and represent the public interest. Rather, they see the press as just another special interest.”

Source: The New Yorker

President Barack Obama’s team often used social media to communicate with the American public. In late 2013, 38 news organizations signed a letter of complaint about the lack of access photojournalists were being granted to document public White House events.

Source: The Atlantic

President Donald Trump’s relationship with the media has been strained and adversarial. On Twitter, the president has repeatedly called news organizations like CNN, The New York Times, CBS, NBC News, and ABC “fake news.”

Source: Twitter