All the Presidents' Spokesmen: Spinning the News--White House Press Secretaries from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush

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Overview

This is the first volume to chronicle the story of the evolution of the symbiotic relationship between the presidential press secretaries and reporters who covered White House news during the terms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Author Woody Klein has been both a reporter (for the Washington Post and the New York World-Telegram & Sun) and a press secretary himself to New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay, who ran for president in 1972. The book reveals how the presidential press secretaries' role has evolved from old-fashioned public relations into a smooth-working system of releasing news and responding to reporters' questions at daily briefings by portraying the president in the best possible light. Klein ferrets out fresh, anecdotal information and includes interviews with nationally known personalities—including former White House press secretaries and notable journalists who have covered the White House. He brings to life the personalities and views of every presidential spokesman on how the job has grown in stature as the press secretaries or spinmeisters have become high-profile officials.

Klein reveals how the tension between government and the media—normally healthy in any democracy—has resulted in the manipulation of facts and the release of favorable official news. It started subtly in the Roosevelt administration and has been carefully honed with the transformation of the media in the information and technology revolution; he shows how it has been refined to the point where it is now recognized for what it is: slanting or packaging the news in favor of the president to make it acceptable—even desired—by the public. Perception quickly becomes reality, and once the facts of a situation have been accepted by the establishment—politicians and the press alike—it becomes virtually impossible to change people's minds about them. The book documents scores of examples of White House spin by topic rather than chronologically—for example, how different press secretaries managed the news in wartime, in foreign policy, in scandals, and in a host of domestic issues such as education and national disasters. Twenty-three press secretaries are included. The most notable among them are Steve Early (Roosevelt), James Hagerty (Eisenhower), Pierre Salinger (Kennedy), Bill Moyers (Johnson), Ron Ziegler (Nixon), Marlin Fitzwater (Reagan and G. H. W. Bush), Dee Dee Myers (Clinton), Mike McCurry (Clinton), Joe Lockhart (Clinton), Ari Fleischer (Bush), Scott McClellan (Bush), and Tony Snow (Bush).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"All the President's Spokesmen, is the first to explore in such breadth the complex and often tense relationship between presidents, presidential press secretaries and the reporters who cover the White House….This is wonderful stuff if you're interested in such things and you won't hear any of it at the next press conference."

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Westport News

"Klein, former New York City Mayor John Lindsay's press secretary, explains how the role of presidential press secretary has evolved from the public relations directors known to FDR and Truman to the spinmeisters of recent administration….He organizes material by topics that include the Cold War, presidential scandals, domestic crises, and global issues….This book is a welcome marriage of well-researched scholarship and an engagingly fresh style. Most sections are well documented, and there is an extensive bibliography. Recommended for public and academic communications collections."

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Library Journal

Library Journal

Jerald terHorst, President Gerald Ford's press secretary, likened the position to a "trapeze artist in the middle of his walk with a stick in each hand, trying to keep his balance." Here, Klein, former New York City Mayor John Lindsay's press secretary, explains how the role of presidential press secretary has evolved from the public relations directors known to FDR and Truman to the spinmeisters of recent administrations. Quoting extensively from transcripts of briefings and press conferences, Klein shows how press secretaries informed reporters and controlled information during historic periods such as World War II, Vietnam, the crisis over school integration in Little Rock, and Watergate. He organizes material by topics that include the Cold War, presidential scandals, domestic crises, and global issues, showing how, as the press became more assertive and the news marketplace went to 24/7 delivery through cable news and the Internet, press secretaries became more deft at spinning stories to reflect the best image of the President. This book is a welcome marriage of well-researched scholarship and an engagingly fresh style. Most sections are well documented, and there is an extensive bibliography. Recommended for public and academic communications collections.
—Jill Ortner

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275990985
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

WOODY KLEIN is a former Press Secretary to a New York City Mayor, a former award-winning investigative and political reporter for daily newspapers in Washington, D.C., and New York, and an award-winning historian. He is the author of Westport, Connecticut: The Story of a New England Town's Rise to Prominence, winner of the Connecticut League of History Organizations' Book Award; Toward Humanity and Justice: The Writings of Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, Scholar of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision in 1954 (2004), winner of "Best Book of the Year" award from the Connecticut Press Club in 2006; and Liberties Lost: The Endangered Legacy of the ACLU (2006). He also authored Let in the Sun (1962) and Lindsay's Promise (1970).

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Table of Contents

Foreword: Press Secretaries Are Historical Figures Marlin Fitzwater Fitzwater, Marlin

Foreword: The First Woman Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers Myers, Dee Dee

Preface: The Life of a Press Secretary Woody Klein Klein, Woody

Introduction The White House Press Secretary: "After the Presidency Itself, The Toughest Job in the White House" 1

Ch. 1 Hot War 35

Ch. 2 Cold War 87

Ch. 3 Presidential Scandals 121

Ch. 4 Domestic Crises 159

Ch. 5 Domestic Controversies 195

Ch. 6 Global Issues 221

Selected Bibliography 235

Index 241

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