WASHINGTON — President Reagan's political appointees at the Agriculture Department were encouraged to call the White House after his nationally televised speech with their comments, officials said Thursday.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, asked about reports of the calls, replied: "I hope that's not the case."
A White House office staffed with volunteers tabulates telephone calls received after presidential speeches and releases totals as a gauge of reaction by the American people.
By Thursday morning, the White House had received 3,645 positive calls and 247 negative responses to Reagan's address, Fitzwater said.
Diane McIntyre, special assistant to Agriculture Secretary Richard E. Lyng, said her secretary called assistant secretaries of agriculture to tell them to remind political appointees that Reagan would give an important speech on the Iran arms affair Wednesday night and that "we would appreciate any critiquing."
For those who wanted to critique the speech, the secretary passed on a White House telephone number.
"I'm not honestly sure where the idea initiated," McIntyre said, adding that "it was so routine it was not questioned."