Office of the Press Secretary


The President of the United States

Remarks to Radio & Television Correspondents’ Dinner

Washington Hilton

April 12, 1994

I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here tonight to honor the 50th anniversary of the TV dinner. In fact, I was a little disappointed the entrée wasn’t Salisbury steak.

Really, I am delighted to be here tonight. An d if you believe that, I have some land in northwest Arkansas I’d like to sell you.

I do want to congratulate you on fifty years of television and radio coverage of Washington politics. And your fifty dinners dating back to 1945. Not only do I want to congratulate the Correspondents’ Association but also Helen Thomas. Helen attended that very first dinner and most of the dinners between then and now. Tonight, I get to ask Helen the first question: Why?

All of you deserve congratulations as well. I’d like to thank your president, Brian Lochman, for inviting me and Garrison Keillor for joining us this evening. As you described the fabled Lake Wobegon, we like to think all the kids at the White House are slightly above-average.

I see your colleague Cokie Roberts is sitting with us at the head table tonight. At least it looks like the head table.

I know Rick Kaplan told me it was.

This past half century has witnessed some of the greatest moments of political history. And you have been responsible for many of them. Tonight, I’d like to recount a few of those highlights:

Your impact dates back to 1922, when Warren Harding utters the first words ever spoken by a president over the radio: "Gergen, come here. I need you."

In 1944, your association's first year, Franklin Roosevelt delivers more of his Fireside chats over the radio. Today, of course, you insist the president sit directly on the logs.

Following a reliable source hours after the 1948 election, network news airs the very first televised interview with President-elect Thomas E. Dewey.

1952. Dwight Eisenhower says he will go to Korea. First question from the press is about their seating arrangements on the plane.

1960. Researchers discover that people who watched the Kennedy/Nixon debate on television thought John Kennedy won. But people who listened to the debate on radio thought -- "when the hell am I gonna get a television?"

1972. Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern concedes a 49-state, 23-point landslide election. The press demands to see the records of his losses.

1974. Two crusading young journalists take on a president for abuse of office. And to this day, Evans & Novak have never forgiven Richard Nixon for price controls.

In 1981, Dan Rather replaces Walter Cronkite. Soon after, an impressionable Jim Leach purchases his first sweater.

1982. The introduction of the first Saturday morning political cartoon, called The McLaughlin Group.

1988. A network news producer whispers in the ear of a Dukakis advance staffer. "Why use a jeep when you can put him in a tank?"

1994. George Mitchell goes live on CNN to withdraw his name from Supreme Court consideration, fueling speculation that he’d rather argue with Steinbrenner than Scalia.

I can only imagine how grand your future will be. Just take all of these proud moments and multiply them by 500 channels.

Yours is a proud history indeed. My history with the press is another matter.

Some say my relations with the press have been marked by self-pity. I like to think of it as the outer limits of my empathy. I feel my pain.

Others say "if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." My problem is: I don’t want to leave the kitchen.

In fact, my next major interview is with Kathleen Sullivan.

Despite what is being reported now, I think history will show that, in fact, I had a very good relationship with the press. And if it doesn’t, I’ll complain like hell about the historians.

Many of you know that I have some strong opinions on the issue of privacy. And they’re none of your business.

I don’t want to alarm any of you, but it’s three days before April 15th and most of you have spent more time with my taxes than your own. Many happy returns.

I happen to believe, however, that amid all the recent media frenzy, many important accomplishments of this administration have gone overlooked and under-reported.

For example, since I’ve taken office, the United States government has raised $21 million in back taxes from people with nannies. And that’s in the West Wing alone.

Millions of Americans feel better about how they look in jogging shorts.

There is an increasing awareness of the information superhighway. Today, 72% of Americans are in favor of the idea, provided the rest stops are clean.

Not only do we have an administration that looks more like America, but one that changes jobs and careers at the same rate as the American work force.

Ours is the first administration that’s had a senior advisor featured on the cover of both Time Magazine and Teen Beat.

We established the first smokeless back room of American politics.

My Vice President has made great strides in his first and most daunting assignment, Reinventing Al Gore.

We’ve created 2.3 million new jobs. Nearly half of them in the health insurance lobby.

I think you can expect to see more great things in the years to come. Because this is an administration that doesn’t know the meaning of the word "surrender." The meaning of the word "cowardice." The meaning of the word "timidity." And for an administration with such a limited vocabulary, I think we’ve done pretty well already.

Over the last eight months, this administration has brought in some very good people to get me over the bumps of my first year. Because I still believe in a place called "Help."


I have been called the first President to have grown up in the electronic age.

It’s true. I also had a radio in that pickup, and I’ll tell you why: it told me what was happening in the world.

And television showed me. I saw Presidential debates. I saw election night returns. I saw a process unfold.

The fact is: the media have changed how we all see the world and how the world sees us. And the media have changed, too.

On any given day, in any given hour, news, talk and opinion -- they all collide on the airwaves. But if you listen, you’ll hear a very sweet sound: the symphony of free speech.

Tonight we pay tribute to radio and television journalists. I am honored to know many of you. You hold a special place in this democracy.

Thank you for including Hillary and me tonight.

God bless you.

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