WASHINGTON — Marlin Fitzwater made his debut today as President Reagan's chief spokesman and quickly encountered his first protests from the White House press corps.
At his first briefing, Fitzwater announced a major story: the resignation of CIA Director William J. Casey and the appointment of his deputy, Robert Gates, to succeed him.
Along with the news came complaints about reporters' lack of access to the President.
Fitzwater said Reagan's meeting today with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti would be available for coverage only by U.S. still photographers and Italian television cameramen, excluding U.S. television cameras and reporters in a departure from past practice.
Reagan has not been seen by reporters in the Oval Office since before Christmas.
'What Was Recommended'
Asked why he was restricting press coverage, Fitzwater acknowledged, "That's what was recommended to me and I accepted." Reporters' access to Reagan has been a recurrent issue between the press and Fitzwater's predecessor, Larry Speakes.
On a wide variety of subjects, Fitzwater was peppered with questions he couldn't answer. He offered to try to provide written answers by the afternoon and declined to hold a second briefing for reporters today because of other business.
But he said he intended to continue the practice of two briefings a day.
Seeming exasperated by the volume of questions, Fitzwater exclaimed: "This is my first morning and I cannot believe--I can't believe all the information I tried to absorb before 9:15 (a.m.). It's all been asked.
"I looked up and it was 10 after 9; I hadn't even seen any guidance; I hadn't talked to people, and three people were already calling me for a meeting. Speakes is beginning to look a lot more (like a) genius."