Reagan and Sam Donaldson Showed the Right Way to Run a Press Conference

The Gipper displayed composure and restraint under the heat of Iran/Contra…

Reagan and Sam Donaldson Showed the Right Way to Run a Press Conference

Ronald Reagan/IMAGE: YouTube

(Paul Chesser, Liberty Headlines) Now that the dispute over proper journalist behavior and worthiness of press access has been settled between CNN and the White House, and the Trump administration has formally introduced rules for future press conferences, it is a good time to look back at another president who was hated by the media — yet both conducted themselves with orderliness and respect in similar circumstances.

In November 1986, President Reagan was on the defensive over the Iran/Contra scandal, regarding selling arms to the embargoed nation in exchange for the hoped release of hostages in Lebanon, with the proceeds to fund rebels battling the socialist government in Nicaragua.

Despite the probing questions that challenged the president and claims he and his administration made, the press conference was devoid of the chaos and disrespect that characterized President Trump’s post-election session two weeks ago.

A few examples from Reagan’s conference – first, Chris Wallace, I believe then of ABC News, was called upon:


Note how the president listened fully to the question, waited for Wallace to finish, and then gave his answer while Wallace waited for him to finish. Wallace then asked a single foll0w-up, which Reagan allowed him to fully express, and then Reagan answered. All the other journalists in the room patiently waited their turn.

Next the reporters, who actually understand decorum, silently raised their hands in hopes of being called upon, and waited for recognition from the President. Sam Donaldson — always known for challenging questions and in other contexts a sometimes shouter over the whirring blades of a nearby helicopter — was next with his opportunity:

Again, Reagan gave Donaldson an opportunity to fully ask his question and foll0w-up, and Donaldson returned the courtesy awaiting a full answer. No other reporters attempted to trample on the exchange.

Next was Bill Plante of CBS News, and the pattern was repeated:

Now let’s compare that with how our current White House press corps conducted themselves with President Trump on November 7th. Things went semi-smoothly with the first four reporters, although not with the clean-and-orderly one-question-one-follow-up process observed in 1986, as some reporters rudely felt the need to shout a “Mr. President” and attempted to start asking questions, rather than raise their hands and wait to be called upon. Then Jim Acosta stood up:

As has now been reported widely (by conservative media), Acosta was more of an opinion-expresser than a questioning journalist; rudely insisted on asking several questions; totally disrespected the president’s authority to conduct the press conference as he saw fit; and sought to monopolize and grandstand by refusing to give up the microphone. Yet the removal of his access privileges was reported by the legacy media as an abridgment of his First Amendment rights.

The reporter following Acosta, Peter Alexander of NBC News, attempted to ask his question, but Acosta stood up again to address the president – even without the mic. Then when it was his turn, Alexander failed to relinquish the microphone when Trump would not recognize him for a follow-up:

The chaos only continued from there, with the next reporter insisting on asking another question without being acknowledged, as other reporters shouted for attention for the next question:

Those in today’s media who say they long for an atmosphere of civility and respect in today’s politics should look back on Reagan and his journalist adversaries as an example.