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Speakes Defends Administration's Controls Over Public Information

September 27, 1986|United Press International

WASHINGTON — White House spokesman Larry Speakes suggested Friday that presidential news conferences have "outgrown their usefulness" and defended the Reagan Administration's tight controls on information to the media.

"I don't know a corporation . . . that doesn't try to control the message that goes to the public," Speakes said during a Times Mirror panel discussion on the press and the President. "That's the way the game is played."

Commenting on complaints that reporters have too little access to Reagan, Speakes said: "Many institutions of the press have either outlived or outgrown their usefulness."

As an example, he cited televised news conferences, saying they are dominated by a few reporters from TV networks and big newspapers. He said the Administration has "searched for a better way," trying one-on-one interviews, six-on-one interviews and off-the-record cocktail sessions.

Another panelist, ABC White House correspondent Sam Donaldson, protested, saying: "News conferences are the only chance the American public has to see Ronald Reagan use his mind."

Donaldson said that what the White House really wants is to keep Reagan under wraps for fear he will make a blunder or deviate from whatever policy point his staff is emphasizing that day. That strategy "does not serve the American public," he said.

Jody Powell, press secretary to President Jimmy Carter, defended attempts to manage what Reagan says.

"Presidents have this almost irresponsible urge to answer a question unless they're physically restrained . . .," Powell said. "It does muck up your position of the day, even if he does get his facts right."

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