• U.S.

THE PRESIDENCY: Leaks

4 minute read
TIME

Last week the Press was its own White House news. Ever since the campaign to “humanize” him began two months ago, President Hoover has writhed and winced at intimate, inconsequential little stories about himself in the public prints. When a newshawk cynically remarked to him that more U. S. newsreaders were interested in Granddaughter Peggy Ann than in his debt holiday, the President denied that the U. S. people were of such low intelligence. The Press fortnight ago described the President’s hurried departure from his Rapidan camp (where no reporters were present) and his 60 m. p. h. drive back to Washington. Mr. Hoover was intensely annoyed.

The President’s bodyguard under Richard Jervis have long idle hours on their hands. So have their good friends the White House newsmen. Together newshawks and detectives sit about in the White House lobby gossiping. Thus is many a little human interest story about the President brought to light. Most correspondents also have their special White House pipelines for news. It was to break up this system that President Hoover, his nerves frayed from his arduous debt negotiations, called in William H. Moran, chief of the Secret Service, and asked to know who was the White House “leak.”

When this fact leaked to the Press, as it did immediately, correspondents marched in to see Private Secretary Theodore Joslin, oldtime Boston Transcript correspondent. They demanded an explanation. Yes, declared Secretary Joslin, the investigation was on. The President was disturbed at 15 news leaks within the past few weeks. Hereafter on the President’s orders White House news would come only from “authorized official sources”— that is, the President or Secretary Joslin. That, retorted ‘the newsmen, constituted censorship.

Next day Secretary Joslin tried to smooth things out by informing the Press: “This is not censorship. Any newspaper man has a perfect right to ask any employe at the White House any question he wishes. But just try to get any information.”

Each morning President Hoover scans all the New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington papers before he reaches his office. He has little sense of personal news value, no capacity to ignore what he dislikes.* The story of his fast ride from the Rapidan upset him because obviously he had violated Virginia’s 45 m. p. h. speed law. But his leak investigation served only to revive public interest in this and other stories to which he objected. Among these were newssquibs that:

1) A White House window curtain had been patched for economy; 2) the President, trying to nap, had ordered a carpenter pounding nearby to “declare a moratorium on noise”; 3) a hideout had been constructed near the White House laundries where Secretary Walter Newton could hold secret political interviews; 4) Mrs. Newton had fallen from her horse into the Rapidan. The only story that Secretary Joslin branded as untrue was one to the effect that a Hoover wolfhound bit a Marine guard and the President, patting the animal’s head, remarked: “Nice doggie! Now go bite General [Smedley Darlington] Butler.”

¶President Hoover’s motorcade to the Rapidan entered the news a second time last week when a big bus cut in behind the President’s car near Fairfax. Three of the four Hoovercade cars finally got around it. The last car, driven by Frank Connor of the New York Herald Tribune, started to go around at 50 m. p. h. when a rear wheel skidded and the bus sent Connor’s machine spinning over & over into the ditch. Connor’s wife broke her collarbone, suffered other injuries. Her husband got off with bruises. ¶Despite the Hoover debt holiday. Germany teetered all week on the edge of financial collapse (see p. 20). President Hoover announced that Germany’s rescue would have to be accomplished privately or abroad, that the U. S. Government was not authorized to give it any banking aid.

*President Coolidge would never read anything but his friendly Press.

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