Politicians and the Press: A Long History of Love and Hate (and Especially Hate)

From the “alas, ‘twas always thus” department: PEJ turns in a brief but interesting study of the long history of politicians mocking, disparaging, and otherwise hating on the press.

“The more overtly partisan and ideological nature of the criticism—that the press is liberal—is relatively new,” the report notes.

The modern critique by conservatives that the press is liberal first notably flowered in public in 1964 when former President Dwight Eisenhower raised the complaint at the Republican convention, to wild reaction. The criticism has become noticeably bolder since the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich, representing the second generation of movement conservatism, took power in the House. Yet it may have never been more pointed or personal than this year.

The report goes on to list some of the saucier instances of historical Pol-to-Press calumny:

Jefferson: “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”

Woodrow Wilson: “I am so accustomed to having everything reported erroneously that I have almost come to the point of believing nothing that I see in the newspapers.”

Bill Clinton: “I have fought more damn battles here for more things than any President has in twenty years, with the possible exception of Reagan’s first budget, and not gotten one damn bit of credit from the knee-jerk liberal press, and I am sick and tired of it, and you can put that in your damn article.”

Good news, kinda: Given the press-averse leanings of both presidential campaigns right now, seems like, whichever candidate wins the election, PEJ will likely keep getting more material to add to its Press Dis List…

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.