Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference in Hyde Park, New York

August 20, 1940

(Roy Howard—Campaign speeches—Conversations with Great Britain on naval and air bases.)

Q. [Mr. John O'Brien] Mr. President, there has been a great deal of speculation in the newspapers as to the identity of the man you had in mind when you said in your acceptance speech that one person had not cooperated in the defense plan. Do you care to say whom you did have in mind?

THE PRESIDENT: Which story are you referring to?

Q. [Mr. O'Brien] It appeared in two or three newspaper columns that Roy Howard was the culprit.

THE PRESIDENT: I did not see any that said he was a culprit.

Q. [Mr. O'Brien] That he was the man you had in mind as the one person who had not cooperated.

THE PRESIDENT: In other words, hadn't you better get down to brass tacks and say that the newspaper story had said that he had been offered—not offered—but asked to take on a definite assignment for the Government at the time—and that was true? The rest of the story, that he had been assigned to form a propaganda bureau in South America, was not true.

Q. Could you tell us what you did have in mind for him?

THE PRESIDENT: No particular reason why I should not. I asked him to go down by plane-it would have taken about forty days to go down—and meet all his old friends. When he started the U.P., he got to know all the principal newspaper owners and editors in certain of the main capitals of South America, Central America, and he also got to know, during that period, many of the people prominent in Government. I asked him to go down and talk to them confidentially, on behalf of the United States, to find out what their own personal opinions were on fifth-column activities, as we call them, in various South American republics, because he knew them all, knew the owners and editors of the principal papers. He seemed best fitted for it. And that was all. He did not go. Does that cover it all right?

Q. [Mr. O'Brien] Yes, but that still leaves the question up in the air as to whether he was the person you had in mind when you made your reference to that matter in the Chicago speech?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Yes. I cannot tell a lie—like George Washington.

Q. Mr. President, when are you going to start your debates with Wendell Willkie?

THE PRESIDENT: George [Mr. Durno], you had better reduce it to a mimeographed copy and give it to Bill [Mr. Hassett] every morning.

Q. [Mr. Durno] In Washington, you mean?

THE PRESIDENT: You know what the situation is on that just as well as I do, all of you. I told the people, told the Convention that night on the air, about midnight, that whether I like it or not, I happened to be the President of 130 million people, the United States and dependencies—territories-and things are in such shape this year that it is, of course, perfectly obvious that I cannot do any campaigning as you all know. I think that covers George [Mr. Durno] all right.

Q. Mr. President, you announced in your Press Conference in Washington that this Government was holding conversations with Great Britain on the matter of naval and air bases. Are these conversations proceeding satisfactorily?


Q. Can you tell us when you expect some developments, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I can't tell you yet because you may be disappointed. But they are proceeding.

Q. Is there any possibility from that that you might have anything to say on the question of the sale of World War destroyers to Great Britain?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think you had better speculate on it. Just like last Friday.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference in Hyde Park, New York Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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