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Press Is a Thorn in Rose Garden

October 06, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A Rose Garden ceremony to honor outstanding schools ended Monday with a shouting match between the guests and reporters trying to question President Reagan about confirmation proceedings on Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork.

When school principals rebuked some of the journalists who called out to the President as he walked back to the Oval Office, several reporters gave them a tongue-lashing in return and told them to brush up on the First Amendment.

The shouting came at the closing of a ceremony for leaders of the 271 junior high and high schools cited in an annual recognition program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

The reporters had been silent throughout the President's speech, but after a jovial Reagan said, "Class dismissed!" and turned to walk away, Bill Plante of CBS-TV called out in a stentorian tone: "Mr. President, looks like the Bork nomination will fail in the committee?"

Reagan responded loudly and firmly: "Over my dead body!" and the crowd laughed and applauded.

As Plante and Sam Donaldson of ABC-TV shouted follow-up questions, John Vassak, a teacher at one of the award-winning schools, turned to the reporters in the roped-off press area at the back of the Rose Garden and said: "You're taking away from the joy of the whole occasion for us."

Donaldson shot back: "He's a grown man and he can take care of himself. . . . We're doing our job here as reporters, asking the President questions."

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