How the White House Press Corps Has Changed Over the Past 35 Years

HelenThomasby Patricia L. Dickson 11/16/14
I recently recorded and later watched a PBS four-part documentary on Ronald Reagan. I was a teenager just entering high school when President Reagan was first sworn into office, so of course I was not particularly tuned in to the current events during that time in American history.  The first thing that struck me while watching the documentaries was the stark contrast between how the media and White House Press Corps treated President Reagan and how they treat President Obama. It is one thing for me to hear and read about how the media has become more liberal and biased over the years, however; it is irrefutable after I actually saw it in action before my own eyes.  I must say that it was shocking!

I started paying attention to American politics just before President Clinton’s re-election. Even then, the media was not as biased as it is today (although it was obvious that they favored Democrats over Republicans). In fact, I used to come home from work every day during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and watch Hard Ball with Chris Matthews. I can barely stand to look at a photo of Chris Matthews today.  I first noticed the media’s leftward shift when I witnessed the difference in how the White House Press Corps treated President George W. Bush as compared to President Bill Clinton.

The fourth series of the Reagan documentary covered the Iran- Contra Affair and how the story first broke that suggested that the Reagan Administration traded weapons for hostages. President Reagan was presumed guilty and was not given the benefit of the doubt from the media. The press hounded President Reagan asking did he know about these illegal activities, and if not, how something of this magnitude could occur without his knowledge. I was stunned as I watched how the White House Press Corps in the Press Briefing room treated him. Helen Thomas and Sam Donaldson attacked him like two pit bulls while other journalists hurled accusations at him that he was trying to deceive the American people.  I could see the hurt in his eyes as he addressed their questions and accusations. It was brutal! The White House Press Corps took a disrespectful tone when addressing President Reagan that should not have been taken with any individual holding the office of the president.

Fast-forward to today with President Obama and the current scandals plaguing his administration. Some of the journalist that covered the Reagan Administration are alive and were still journalist at least part of the Obama Presidency. Not only do the media not attack President Obama, they do not even question him about the scandals nor do they report them on their evening news. When someone interviews President Obama, he or she throws fawning softball question at him that has nothing to do with the scandals or the interviewer gives him free reign to address the issue as he pleases without even challenging him.  Did the same press hound President Obama about Fast and Furious and ask him did he know about those illegal activities, and if not, how could something of this magnitude occur without his knowledge? Of course not. In addition, what about Benghazi?  CNN President, Jeff Zucker said that he would not be shamed into covering the Benghazi Hearings. Can you imagine any network president saying that he or she would not be shamed into covering the Iran-Contra hearings? How could the media have fallen so far? Even with the Iran-Contra Affair having occurred under his watch, President Reagan; in 1989, left office with the highest approval rating of any president since Franklin Roosevelt. What will President Obama’s approval rating be when he leaves office?

The media has all but abandoned its job of reporting the news as it happens and keeping government honest at least while a democrat is president. For a lesson in history, journalism students and anyone under the age of 50 should watch past documentaries in American politics and compare the way the media reported the news just over 30 years ago and how they report it today. I would also recommend that they pay attention to what the media thought to be newsworthy as compared to what they chose to report today. It most certainly was a revelation for me.


PatriciaDicksonPatricia Dickson blogs at Patricia’s Corner.
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7 Responses to How the White House Press Corps Has Changed Over the Past 35 Years

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    If you go back 200 years, you will find that the press was explicitly partisan, with each party having its own newspapers (they were owned by private parties, of course, but those owners were strong partisans). At some point the concept of objectivity came in and may even have existed to some degree, but in the past few decades this has been disappearing.

    Part of this is that journalists who (however liberal) were trained in the idea of objectivity and had it as their goal are being replaced by younger journalists whose goal is to push their agenda. Since liberals believe that “the ends justify the means” (Jonathan Gruber’s arrogance, cynicism, and dishonesty were no surprise to me; I expect that from ALL Inner Party liberals), this means that most of them are no more than professional propagandists. They might as well be working at Orwell’s Ministry of Truth in 1984.

  2. GHG says:

    I think the lesson learned in the “Scopes Monkey Trial” back in the 20’s was that whoever controls the dissemination of information controls the narrative and reality is subjugated to that narrative.

    This is why the internet must not fall under control of the government. The Gruber youtube videos would never have seen the light of day if the internet were controlled.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Actually, even before the Scopes trial, the Fabian Society had already come up with the idea of taking control democratically by infiltrating, and eventually controlling, the sources of information (such as education and the mass media). Implicit in this is that once you have control, opposing viewpoints are excluded by keeping dissenters out.

    • David Ray says:

      It is fascinating to me how the Scopes Monkey Trial was a pure scam from the beginning. Hat tip to Ann Coulter’s book “Godless”.
      Of course Hollywood turned that choreographed farce into some bozo movie called “Inherit the Wind”. (Christians are portrayed as hay-seed Neanderthals who roam the streets like a mob and throw bottles at the poor beleaguered Science teacher while he’s in jail.)

      • GHG says:

        Yep, who would even think to question the integrity of Spencer Tracy. If that’s what Mr. Tracy believes … well then so do I.

        That is as good an example of leftist Hollywood activism as there is. Tracy was a beloved Hollywood star but he was a diehard progressive activist.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Note that Inherit the Wind was based on a play, and did include a great deal of material from the original trial. (Darrow really did put Bryan on the stand as an expert on the Bible, and at one point when he implied that Judge Raulston was biased and the judge hoped he didn’t mean to insult him, Darrow did reply, “Well, Your Honor has the right to hope” — and did get fined for contempt of court.)

          On the other hand, there was no hostility toward Scopes (in fact, the whole thing was something of a put-up job, with Scopes later admitting to the defense team that he never really got around to covering evolution anyway), and the trivial fine hardly upset Bryan (who had expressed his willingness to pay it — he was there to make a point, not to punish Scopes).

          But I will also add that I called at least one NRO troll Hornbeck (back when I responded frequently to trolls) in honor of Drummond’s description of him at the end. (Of course, Drummond was based on Darrow and Hornbeck on H. L. Mencken.)

  3. David Ray says:

    Gotta love how Dan Rather and Mary Mapes put their sheer idiocy on public display. Mapes had been consumed by Bush’s National Guard duty for five years, and set herself up to be conned by fake documents.
    Of course the Mapes wrote a cry-baby book called “Truth and Duty”. (Ham-fisted titles are sort of a liberal thing.)

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