The Power of the Press
He was a cripple. Those who covered him never wrote about it because Steve Early (press secretary) asked them; not to, and the White House photographers never took his photo in a wheelchair or on crutches because Early asked them not to; those were different days and reporters respected certain rights of the President. (Felix Belair, working for Time a few years later, was with Roosevelt at Hyde Park when he had voted in the 1940 election. He had gone inside the voting booth and a lever had jammed. “This goddamned thing doesn’t work, “ came that rich familiar voice from the voting booth, and Belair had filed it and Time had printed the quote; Roosevelt was enraged—no one believed in those days purer of soul that the President of the United States would lapse into profanity. Reporters always shielded the public from presidential profanity and Roosevelt denied that he had been blasphemous.)
Nor did the journalists covering him think of Roosevelt as a cripple, he seemed to radiate such immense power and force, a kind of magnetic vitality… Roosevelt’s hold on his press corps was very powerful, In part he was brilliant at the mechanics of their craft, and they, like everyone else were members of the society, he held their hopes in his hand just as he did those of their readers. The years of the Depression had been so bleak; reporters like everyone else, had wanted a savior, wanted him to succeed, wanted the New Deal to work.
David Halberstam, The Powers That Be, pp. 10-11.
Tuesdays in the Chapel
…a crew of CBS television reporters was in Johnson City, Texas interviewing Lyndon Johnson for his televised memoirs. There was a curious ambiguity to the project: Johnson, the first of two Presidents to feel himself driven from office by the press, was still angry at the media for his demise, CBS not excepted, and yet Johnson, the politician-memoirist-businessman, was not only telling his side of the story but making hundreds of thousands of dollars for the combined book-documentary project. His mood and his temper thus sharply fluctuated. On one particular day the former President was in an unusually relaxed mood, and a senior CBS producer named John Sharnik asked him what had changed in politics between his early days in Congress some thirty years before and the final days of his presidency. Sharnik asked him question quite casually and was stunned by the vehemence of Johnson’s answer. “You guys,” he had said, without even reflecting. “All you guys in the media. All of politics has changed because of you. You’ve broken all the machines and the ties between us in Congress and the city machines. You’ve given us a new kind of people.” A certain disdain passed over his face…”They’re your creations, your puppets. No machine could ever create a Teddy Kennedy. Only you guys. They’re all yours. Your product.”
Halberstam, p. 6.