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New York Times' Arthur Krock Was FDR's Jim Acosta

arthur krock, prize-winner writer for the new york times, poses in his Washington office.

(Charles Gorry/AP Photo)

Monday, 12 November 2018 07:13 AM Current | Bio | Archive

CNN’s White House Correspondent Jim Acosta had on November 7 what artist Andy Warhol once dubbed his “fifteen minutes of fame.”

Not only did Acosta get into an acid exchange with President Trump during a nationally-televised press conference (“disgusting” was one of the adjectives Trump used to describe Acosta), but the newsman’s credentials that permit him to enter the White House grounds were subsequently suspended by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. 

Whatever one’s opinion on the treatment of Acosta by Trump, the question is increasingly heard: has any past President played as rough with a White House correspondent as Trump did with Acosta?

One example stands out as coming close and perhaps surpassing Trump’s current war on Acosta: namely, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to severely undercut Arthur Krock, White House correspondent and bureau chief for the New York Times.

The New York Times was “the newspaper [Roosevelt] had been reared on,” Krock later wrote in his memoirs, “and since he had the common distaste for criticism of men in office, his distaste for and resentment of mine had this added provocation.”

Shortly after FDR took office in 1933, Krock began getting not-too-subtle hints from Administration sources that the President was making critical comments about some of his reports. 

In 1934, Krock reported in detail (“too detailed from the President’s standpoint”) of FDR’s acid response to the resignation of Budget Director Lewis W. Douglas over the White House’s insistence on increasing federal spending.

“It was in this period that the President declined my request to come see him for an exploration of the grievances,” Krock recalled, “and wrote the letter of complaint to the publisher of the New York Times that was a virtual suggestion I be replaced in Washington.”

Relations between Krock and FDR continued to deteriorate through the 1930’s. Unable to get Krock fired, the President tried another approach and, in 1936, invited his deputy bureau chief Turner Catledge to the White House. FDR told him flatly he did not get along with Krock, and offered to ignore the bureau chief and disclose news directly to Catledge.

“Out of loyalty to Mr. Krock, Mr. Catledge refused the President's offer,” The Times reported in its 1983 obituary of Catledge.

In 1938, Krock wrote a dispatch that the President had sent “feelers” to Hitler and Mussolini about a peace conference on the high seas and been rebuffed. A furious FDR commented that “the story was interesting and well-written, but just not so.”

(Attorney General Frank Murphy knew Krock had the story right and asked the President why he denied it. FDR replied: “He had the timing all wrong.  It didn’t happen when he said it did. It happened three months earlier”).

Krock, who rarely attended White House press conferences or any official briefings, cultivated inside sources in the Administration. Even as the President sought to do him harm, Krock continued to break inside stories in his “In the Nation” column and Administration officials eagerly accepted invitations to his dinner parties at the Metropolitan or F Street Clubs.

During his sixty-year career, Krock won three Pulitzer Prizes. The last time he and FDR crossed paths was in 1945 at the annual dinner of the White House Correpondents Association. 

“If ever impending death was written on a human countenance, it seems to me I saw it that night,” Krock wrote, “[I]n his wheelchair, he had to pass me en route [to the exit].  My face as he passed must have so clearly reflected my distress at the change in his own that he noticed it. Anyway, he looked at me as he was wheeled by and said, gaily, ‘Cheer up, Arthur, Things have seldom been as bad as you said they were.’”

“Several weeks thereafter, he was dead at Warm Springs.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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CNN's White House Correspondent Jim Acosta had on November 7 what artist Andy Warhol once dubbed his "fifteen minutes of fame."
Monday, 12 November 2018 07:13 AM
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