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Who Said That?

May 15, 1988

I found Ron Rogers' sanctimonious diatribe against Larry Speakes a bit much ("Speakes' Transgressions Tarnish PR Professionals," Viewpoints, April 24).

As a matter of fact the whole Speakes' flap seems to call for comedienne Joan Rivers famous put-down: "Grow up!" Obviously if the President had not liked the quotes, Speakes would have returned to private life much sooner.

The huffing and puffing over the Speakes' manufactured quotes make me wonder where his detractors have been living and in what century. For as long as I can remember, most celebrity quotes have been manufactured. If released without clearance, they better be on target or you are history.

Ghostwriting--indeed ghost-thinking--has never been more prevalent, and "spin control" wasn't invented by the Reaganites. It often includes the letter from the chief executive officer in the shareholder report; the celebrity guest editorial, speech, magazine article or autobiography; the response to a letter written to a well-known figure, at least the first draft of a judicial decision, and the thesis of an executive MBA candidate.

Without belaboring the point, I have had a fantastic quote attributed to me in an interview by a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter. I liked it better than if I had actually said it.

Perhaps this has been going on for a long time. I can imagine Abe Lincoln on his way to Gettysburg scribbling on the back of an envelope: "87 years ago . . . " He turns to the aide sitting next to him with the instructions to "punch it up a little."

The aide responds, "How about this, Mr. President?: 'Four score and seven years ago . . . ' "


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