The Presidents vs the Press (Wilkinson Lecture 2020)

Time Period
1764 to 1824
1825 to 1860
1861 to 1876
1877 to 1924
1925 to Today
Media Type
Politics & Government
Harold Holzer

Since America’s first president began the very first presidential feud with the press, American chief executives have been engaged in an endless struggle with journalists for control of the reporting that constitutes the first draft of history. This presentation will focus on three exemplars of this tension: Virginians George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, whose relationships with the press were deeply intertwined, and Virginia-born Woodrow Wilson, who modernized the White House relationship with the media in several remarkable ways, both positive and negative. For better and worse, all three Virginia presidents defined and defended the still-manifest hostility between presidents and the leaders they cover.

Harold Holzer, one of the country’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era, serves as The Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, co-chairman of The Lincoln Forum, and chairman of the Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. A prolific writer and lecturer, and frequent guest on television, Holzer has authored, co-authored, and edited forty-two books, including Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860–1861; Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Lincoln President; Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion; and, most recently, The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle between the White House and the Media—From the Founding Fathers to Fake News. His many awards include the Lincoln Prize and the National Humanities Medal.

The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

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