partisans vs. media, 20 years ago
June 29, 2011 7:04 PM   Subscribe

Looking for confirmation of a story from the 1988 or 1992 US general election. A few GOP partisans at a Bush Sr. rally started jeering media members, who wound up feeling uncomfortable and maybe unsafe. When Bush was made aware of it, he was almost uncomprehending-- "how could anyone take campaign rhetoric so seriously?", was the general take on his response. Google searching "Bush + media" isn't getting me there. Anyone else know this story better, or have confirmation or debunking?
posted by ibmcginty to Law & Government (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you are referring to the press conference in Huntington, IN that was supposed to be Dan Quayle's serious launch in August 1988. What actually happened was that the Bush campaign ginned up people in the crowd to start jeering and heckling and drowning out the reporters' questions when reporters started asking Quayle uncomfortable questions about his time in the National Guard during the Vietnam War. There's no evidence that I can find that Bush disowned or discouraged the staged confrontation between the partisans and the reporters. The Chicago Tribune reported that James Baker (then Bush's campaign director) and other campaign staff stood around on the courthouse lawn and smiled and laughed for 15 minutes while the ugliness escalated.
posted by blucevalo at 8:30 PM on June 29, 2011

This appears to be the article blucevalo mentioned.
posted by lukemeister at 9:50 PM on June 29, 2011

See also "The kebabbing of Dan Quayle": "The media pack's next crack at Quayle came on Friday afternoon at a news conference in his home- town of Huntington, Indiana - one of the ugliest confrontations in the annals of press and politics, with repeated and ever-sharper questions on the National Guard. Mitch Daniels, a lawyer- politician who had worked on Quayle's first Senate campaign, called the staging of the event amid a home-town crowd openly antagonistic to the reporters 'a terrible mistake. It poisoned the atmosphere for another several weeks'."

In addition -- pp. 44-45 of "Good intentions make bad news: why Americans hate campaign journalism."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:02 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, folks, that is all good information (bonus points for the Mitch Daniels sighting!).

In my memory, there was some other story as well, involving a smaller klatch of Bush supporters jeering a small handful of reporters further away from whatever main campaign event was going on that day.

It's possible, of course, that I'm just misremembering Dan Quayle's Huntington press conference.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:46 AM on June 30, 2011

Republican crowds jeering the press isn't new - I've been at plenty of events where it got a little scary. But I think maybe you mean Bush 1 in late 91/92, when "Annoy The Media: Reelect Bush" was a common bumper sticker.

From the Chicago Trib:

"To deliver the message that the economy is more robust than most people believe, Bush over the past few days has pointed directly at the national media, especially the ``talking heads`` on the network news and interview shows.
That, however, created problems for the 70 journalists traveling with Bush. Besides being booed and hissed, some have been struck: Greg McDonald of the Houston Chronicle was hit in the back by a bottle thrown in Hoover, Ala. At another rally, someone yanked the ponytail of Jose Lopez, a New York Times photographer, as he tried to walk to the camera platform.
Other reporters and photographers traveling with the president have been spit on, jabbed and poked. On Monday, Larry Downing of Newsweek magazine complained to Bush`s spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, who informed the president that his media criticism was inciting some of the audience.
``He didn`t know and I didn`t either,`` said Fitzwater. ``He`s upset at that. He didn`t want to provoke a physical reaction.``
So in Des Moines, when a questioner criticized the media, Bush used it to caution the crowd.
``The problem is . . . that some people are taking it out on those who they should not take it out on,`` Bush said. ``Like the photographers with us today, these guys that struggle around, carrying these boom mikes and the cameras. So put them down as good guys, and leave the traveling press alone."

I note with interest and a little sadness how the news stories of the day played down that aspect of the Des Moines speech. The NYT just used a little notebook item. Back then, there were still vestiges of the old tradition of reporters keeping themselves out of the story. Nowadays, any reporter who was manhandled at an event would be all over cable TV making themselves a martyr.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:31 PM on June 30, 2011

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