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Rusk R, Dean Rusk interviewed by Richard Rusk and Thomas Schoenbaum, 1984 December

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:02 - Freedom of the press / Pressures on journalists

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Partial Transcript: --with Dean Rusk. It deals with the press and the media.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk explains why he is a "fanatic" for freedom of the press and talks about the mutual reliance between the press and politicians. He talks about time pressure on journalists, the lack of peaceful news reports, and reporters' search for predictions rather than current events.

Keywords: credibility; network news; sensationalism

00:09:43 - Attitudes toward press dealings / Trial balloons / Background discussions

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Partial Transcript: Now, people adopt different policies toward the press when they go into public office.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk says he never preferred any reporters over others or lied to the press, although he did protect secret information. He outlines several journalists' techniques for getting information and warns about some public officials' tendency to share gossip and not to admit when they do not have answers. Rusk explains why he disapproves of testing for policy reactions among the press and recalls Friday press meetings.

Keywords: Joe Alsop; Scottie Reston; Washington Post; bureaucracy; secrecy

00:21:17 - Government leaks / Kennedy and Johnson with the press

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Partial Transcript: Now, one of the techniques that some reporters use, which is a fairly clever one--they would write a story--

Segment Synopsis: Rusk explains the danger of commenting on first drafts. He talks about presidents' concern over leaks and says the State department got unfair blame for others' leaks. Rusk says reporters are not always good at protecting sources, and he mentions some prominent leakers of his time. He talks about Kennedy's clever replies to questioning in contrast to Johnson's awkwardness and apparent crudeness.

Keywords: Arthur Schlesinger; Chester Bliss Bowles; Kennedy; Roger Hilsman

00:33:22 - Different press platforms / Rusk's Czechoslovakia speech

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Partial Transcript: I personally think that there is a conflict of interests between the television people and the written press.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks about differences in dealing with the written press and the camera. He chronicles coverage of him around the time of the USSR's invasion of Czechoslovakia .

Keywords: Brezhnev Doctrine; Gromyko; UN; communism; conferences

00:39:37 - The press and personal life

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Partial Transcript: Did we ever have a bunch of TV people out in front of the house?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk recalls press invasions into his personal life, including incidents involving his wife and daughter. Rusk comments on his freedom of movement and privacy.

Keywords: Margaret Elizabeth Rusk; Peggy Rusk; Virginia Foisie Rusk; picketing; security

00:44:13 - Misrepresentations by media / Reporters' willingness to see Rusk

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Partial Transcript: There was only one incident in eight years that affected my personal security.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk gives anecdotes about journalists' misrepresentations and falsifications, particularly surrounding his image and Vietnam. He claims that newspaper editors do not accept stories that lack drama and blood and talks about network news programs' responsibility to ask fair and appropriate questions. He mentions reporters who sought exclusive stories from him as well as several who refused to meet with him.

Keywords: ABC; Arthur Krock; Henry Kissinger; Meet the PRess; Montevideo; NBC; Punta del Este; Scottie Reston; Walter Cronkite; Walter Lippman; spit

00:57:47 - Morality of the media

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Partial Transcript: There's another point I think that is very important--fundamental here.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk comments on the misperception that the press represents and is responsible to the people. He also question whether there is true freedom of the press, given editors' and publishers' standards for reporting. Rusk talks about moral and legal issues in receiving information, outlining Watergate.

Keywords: Nixon; bill of rights; first amendment; responsibility to inform; right to know

01:07:55 - The Overseas Press Club

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Partial Transcript: You asked the question about what happens when somebody breaks the rule.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks about press lunches for "deep background." He talks about an investigation into the Pentagon Papers, mentioning a theory that they regarde d a conspiracy to elect Bobby Kennedy for president. Rusk claims the Pentagon Papers were not a major risk to national security because they focused on things the public already knew.

Keywords: American Historical Association; Daniel Ellsburg; Lyndon Johnson; McNamara; Nicholas Katzenbach; Nixon

01:19:24 - Early press encounters / Truman's image

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Partial Transcript: Let's go back to things we were discussing earlier for a minute, specifically your first experiences with the press.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk says his first encounter with the press involved an Atlanta newspaper trying to substitute Miss Atlanta for his girlfriend at a review of Fulton County's JROTC cadets. He talks about editing the Atlanta Journal's school page and about bad experiences with news shows. Rusk recalls press relationships under various administrations and with the Rockefeller Foundation.

Keywords: Clarendon; Elmer Davis; Mills College; Oxford; Piedmont Park; education

01:31:09 - Everyday interactions with the public / Free speech in Hitler's Germany

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Partial Transcript: After you became Secretary, then, of course, the big change for you and all of us was the fact that you were no longer a private citizen...

Segment Synopsis: Rusk tells stories about people recognizing him or mistaking his identity. He mentions getting in trouble with Nazis and attending school for politics in Germany.

Keywords: Hochschule fur Politik; Treaty of Versailles; privacy

01:39:59 - Free speech in the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: Did you have any problems with press {100:00} freedoms back during the [Joseph Raymond] McCarthy period at all?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks about separating personal from public opinions, being candid, staying silent on some issues, and prevaricating. He also comments on instances in which bad reporting had negative influences on policy.

Keywords: Acheson; McCarthy; Tet; Truman

01:50:44 - State Department press coverage

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Partial Transcript: You were the target of some pretty bitter and hostile press coverage at various times in the administration...

Segment Synopsis: Rusk explains how critical senators hurt negotiations in Vietnam and talks about draft deferments. He discusses previous secretaries' mild interactions with press in contrast to Arthur Schlesinger and the press corps' coverage of him.

Keywords: Cuban Missile Crisis; Hanoi; The Thousand Days; military; student protest

01:59:07 - Public opinion and good reporting

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Partial Transcript: Do you recall instances where either exceptionally good reporting or poor reporting may have adversely, somehow, affected policy?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks about the press's impact on and representation of public opinion. He mentions press restraint in relation to the Bay of Pigs. Rusk conveys his admiration for a few specific reporters.

Keywords: Kennedy