January 25, 2013
JFK HELD 1ST LIVE TELEVISED PRESIDENTIAL NEWS CONFERENCE 52 YEARS AGO TODAY
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) John F. Kennedy held his 1st news conference as President of the United States 52 years ago today, on January 25, 1961.
JFK Press Conference
November 20, 1962
Photo by Abbie Rowe
JFK Library Image
That historic conference, held in the State Department Auditorium, was the 1st presidential press conference to be televised live across the nation.
65 million Americans tuned in for the conference in 21.5 million homes.
JFK was to have an average television audience of 18 million for all his news conferences.
JFK's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, said...
"The ideas & philosophy of (President Kennedy)...were best displayed during those moments of truth when he stood alone before the representatives of the press..."
Mr. Salinger said that JFK was well prepared for each of his news conferences.
JFK's staff would provide, beforehand, questions they thought might be asked.
This gave the President the opportunity to form his responses & ask his staff to gather more information on a topic if needed.
When the double doors of the auditorium opened, the President would stride through & all reporters would stand.
After JFK made a brief opening statement, the floor was open for questions. Reporters who had questions would stand & say "Mr. President!"
JFK would select one & point at that reporter, the others would sit back down & wait for their next opportunity.
We have selected just 2 questions & answers from the 1st news conference 52 years ago.
Does your administration plan to take any steps to solve the problem at Fayette County, Tennessee where tenant farmers have been evicted from their homes because they voted last November & now must live in tents?
The Congress...enacted legislation which placed very clear responsibility on the executive branch to protect the right of voting. I support that legislation. I am extremely interested in making sure that every American is given the right to cast his vote without prejudice to his rights as a citizen. And, therefore, I can state that this administration will pursue the problem of providing that protection with all vigor.
Would you consider reopening diplomatic relations in Cuba?
We have no plan at the present to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba...because of the factors (Soviet/Communist influence) which are involved on that island.
"Kennedy & the Press: The News Conferences," Edited & Annotated by Harold W. Chase & Allen H. Lerman, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1965.
COOLIDGE HELD THE MOST NEWS CONFERENCES REAGAN, THE LEAST
In the past 90 years, Presidents of the United States have met with the press with a varied degree of regularity.
Calvin Coolidge, who took office in 1923, completed Warren Harding's term & served one of his own, held 407 news conferences, averaging 72.90 a year.
President Coolidge with
Press Photographers (1924)
Library of Congress Photo
Ronald Reagan, ironically called "the Great Communicator," held only 46 news conferences in 8 years with an average of 5.75 a year.
That record is even worse than Richard Nixon, who detested the press. Nixon held 39 conferences from 1969 to 1974, averaging 7.03 a year.
Following is a list of presidents in the order of average news conferences:
Coolidge (407) 72.90
FDR (881) 72.66
Hoover (268) 67.00
Truman (324) 41.73
G. Bush (137) 34.25
GW Bush (210) 26.25
LBJ (135) 26.16
Eisenhower (193) 24.13
Clinton (193) 24.13
JFK (65) 22.89
Obama (80) 20.00
Carter (59) 14.75
Nixon (39) 7.03
Reagan (46) 5.75