Eisenhower Vs. Kennedy Cage Match
April 3, 2009 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Presidential trivia fight : Eisenhower or Kennedy?

On Twitter today, there's a silly trivia contest running. One of the questions was "Who was the first president to hold a televised news conference?" The next tweet was "Congratulations to [winner], the answer is JFK!"

Except, no it isn't, right? I thought it was Eisenhower, googled that, and replied with some quoted info to the trivia contest runner and the guy who won - with a nice little note that said "I love Presidential Trivia!" so they didn't think I was after the stupid prize, a year's supply of soy candles.

Winner response #1: "It was never shown, it was more of a news clip that was given to the networks!!"

This doesn't seem to be correct, since most references to it say "broadcast," So I called the Eisenhower Presidential Library. They confirmed that it was sent out to the networks to be broadcast in newsreels. I even got the archivist to repeat "Yay Eisenhower!"

Response #2: "wasn't a press conference though. just a cabinet meeting - kind of like C/Span now."

If you watch the video on the C-Span website, it sure sounds like a q/a press conference, and is labeled as such.

Response #3: "Did you read the link? "President John Kennedy's first press conference (all three networks) was first live telecast..."

Right, the first live one. That's not what the original question asked.

Response #4 : " i called the museum of TV . . "This was not aired live and only bits were used. It was more of a cabinet session that he some ..."

I called the Museum of TV and Radio in NYC. They said this was the first they'd heard of the question, and that were they to do any research, a request would have to be faxed to them first, and it would take some time. I also called the Museum of Broadcast Communications, and they said their archivist wasn't in today. However, Bruce DuMont (President of the museum) happened to be standing right next to the woman I was speaking to, and he piped up "Eisenhower!"

So that's where it stands, and I threw up my hands and decided to come here, because many of you are more knowledgeable about:

- doing research
- presidential history
- media history

So which is it? Was Eisenhower's a real press conference, and was it broadcast, or has he gotten credit incorrectly all this time? Or is this not about facts at all, it's just that some guy can't admit he's wrong and/or really wants to keep those soy candles...

Yes, I know, this is a classic case of "Someone is wrong on the internet!" , but if I'm wrong, I'll gladly send the guy a mea culpa.
posted by HopperFan to Law & Government (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You are correct, and this guy doesn't want to admit that he's wrong. I'm not seeing the possible confusion. The people at the Eisenhower Library know their shit.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:07 PM on April 3, 2009

Best answer: You are obviously correct.

Eisenhower Press Conference #58—News Cameras (32 min. 25 sec.) Color Sound

January 1955: At this press conference, given on January 19, 1955, television, newsreel and newspaper camera equipment were present for the first time throughout a presidential news conference. Prior to this event it had been customary to state the president's replies in indirect discourse only.

Now come down from that soapbox before you fall down and get yourself hurt.
posted by trueluk at 1:14 PM on April 3, 2009

"televised news conference"

"Right, the first live one."

I actually think of these as being synonymous. But that's just me.
posted by General Malaise at 1:25 PM on April 3, 2009

Just to clarify, are all of these responses from the contest winner and not the person running it? If not from the one running it, have you heard from them yet?
posted by scarykarrey at 1:28 PM on April 3, 2009

Who was the first president to hold a televised news conference?

I think, in the spirit of the definition, it's JFK.

If by "to hold," you mean "a moving image camera was pointed at me while I spoke" and "televised" means "footage was eventually shown on television without regard to the timeframe," then the answer could have been FDR or Truman, as regularly scheduled television broadcasts started as early as the 1930s, and those presidents were regularly captured by newsreels used by those broadcasts and film distribution.

But if in the spirit of the question, "to hold" means "to host a specifically planned event with an agenda" and "televised" means "it was broadcast on TV right there and then," then the answer is JFK.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:57 PM on April 3, 2009

I'm with Gen. Malaise and CPB above. To "televise" something, the event must put it ON TV contemporaneously.

It looks like Eisenhower's was the first to be recorded on video perhaps.
posted by mrt at 2:15 PM on April 3, 2009

Best answer: No you guys are wrong.
The first televised news conference was Ike. It doesn't matter that it wasn't shown live - he took questions in front of TV cameras, which was a big deal at the time.

The first live news conference is a different story. I get that that's probably what they meant, but their language was sloppy.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:24 PM on April 3, 2009

"Televised" doesn't mean "live as opposed to taped for broadcast." Think about it--you wouldn't say that the Beijing Olympics weren't "televised" in the US, would you?
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:29 PM on April 3, 2009

Response by poster: scareykarrey, you're correct, these responses are all from the contest winner. I never did hear from the person running the contest - I probably won't, because like trueluk pointed out, the whole thing is a little soapbox-y on my part.

I did see the earlier broadcasts you were referring to, cool papa bell, but like CunningLinguist mentioned, the unique thing was that this was a press conference, not a speech or other event.

However, this discussion helps - now I'm more clear on the potential reasons for disagreement on the answer. I shared the opinion of Sidhedevil and really didn't see any confusion at first, but I see it now. The final answer, at least for me - "The first live news conference is a different story. I get that that's probably what they meant, but their language was sloppy."

Anyway, I learned some interesting stuff today, so it's worth it.
posted by HopperFan at 3:38 PM on April 3, 2009

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