The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media—from the Founding Fathers to Fake News

Dutton. Aug. 2020. 576p. ISBN 9781524745264. $30. POL SCI
In this sweeping survey, Holzer (Lincoln and the Power of the Press) examines the often-contentious relationship of 19 presidents with the press, including Abraham Lincoln’s censorship of news during the Civil War and Richard Nixon’s hostility toward reporters. Holzer devotes two fascinating chapters to Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom he calls “an instinctive public relations wizard.” The press embraced Theodore Roosevelt, but found Woodrow Wilson to be “cold and remote.” John F. Kennedy was charming, but also manipulative. Bill Clinton was unprepared for the Washington press corps, and became the first victim of cable news. The chapters on George W. Bush and Barack Obama illustrate how both presidents squandered initial good will from the press. Holzer ends with Donald Trump’s persistent attacks on individual reporters, the constant charge of “fake news,” and his relationship with Fox News. The author also offers a whirlwind history of the United States, discussing the triumphs and failures of each president who is profiled in the book, and addressing the changes in newspaper publishing in the 19th century as well as the impact of radio, television, and the Internet.
VERDICT This is a lively and informative work that will appeal to anyone interested in American history, politics, and journalism.
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