This Week In National Press Club History
August 4, 2014 | By Elizabeth Smith Brownstein
August 8, 1974: President Richard M. Nixon announces his resignation and leaves the White House for the last time the following day. The current History & Heritage/Archives display in the lobby records his long-time association with the National Press Club. As a young senator from California, he sometimes sat in on poker games with reporters at the Club. As Vice President, he attended several of the Club’s presidential inaugurations, in 1954 swearing in Ernest Vaccaro, a reporter for the AP. He led a sing-along from the piano at the 1955 Congressional Night. In 1958, at a luncheon attended by then Senator John F. Kennedy, he discusses their recent diplomatic trip to South America for the Eisenhower Administration. At the Club’s 1958 Fourth Annual Family Frolic he plays softball, and in 1959, he accompanies violinist Jack Benny at the Club’s Third Annual President’s Black Tie Ball. As President, he no longer visits the Club, although in 1969 he receives his honorary NPC membership card from a Club delegation in the Oval Office.
The Nixon Administration’s relations with the press become increasingly hostile as the Vietnam War continues, the Pentagon Papers are published, and the Watergate scandal unfolds. During Nixon’s first term, NPC President Warren Rogers decides to form the Professional Relations Committee, “to keep an eye on our own observance of journalistic ethics and [stand] watch over the freedom-of-information rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” The Committee reports its tough findings on press-government relations during Nixon’s first term to the Club’s Board of Governors in 1973, which leads to the National Press Club’s shift in emphasis, becoming more than a place for socializing and a platform for major figures in the news. The Club becomes a strong advocate for freedom of the press and the public’s right to know.
This Week In National Press Club History is brought to you by the History & Heritage Committee, which preserves and revitalizes the Club’s long history with lobby displays, panel discussions, events and its oral history project.
For information on the Committee’s activities or to join it, contact Chair Gilbert Klein at firstname.lastname@example.org.