Franklin D. Roosevelt

Exchange of Letters and Telegrams between the President and Senator Thomas D. Schall.

August 24, 1934

In a statement read for you last night over the radio it was said: "A National press service . . . to take the place of the Associated Press, the Hearst News Services, and the United Press" and which would "have exclusive use of all Government news and be in a position to give its service only to those newspapers loyal to the Roosevelt dictatorship" is under consideration. The further statement was made that "The Roosevelt Administration is so determined on press censorship it may be interesting to the public to know how this un-American idea gets so much consideration." But for the fact that this statement was made for you, I would let it pass unnoticed. Since I should assume that these statements were not made without basis in fact, I request that you give me the benefit of such facts as you have in support of the charges you caused to be made. Once these facts are in my hands, they will receive immediate attention in order to make impossible the things you say will be done, because I am just as much opposed to them as you are. You will be rendering a real service if you will promptly let me have the facts on which you based the charges made.


Hon. Thomas D. Schall,

Senate Office Building,

Washington, D. C.

My dear Mr. Roosevelt:

Your telegram to me bears out the suggestion of the constant effort to mislead and fool the public. Your desire to make yourself appear before the people of the United States as a champion of a free press may be as insincere as your promises to the people when you accepted the Democratic nomination at Chicago with the statement that you were for their platform a hundred percent. To date you have not kept one of the covenants you pledged the people at that time. Let me recall your testy anger at your disappointment in keeping out of the press code the expression of a free press.

For me to chronicle all the attempts of your Administration to throttle the press and free speech—all known to you and approved by you in advance- would be but to recite incidents with which you are entirely familiar. If it were not for the fact that I see in your request for "information" an attempt on your part to appear as a victim of your own bureaucracy instead of its chief organizer, I would be inclined to ignore your telegram.

But since you assume a cloak of innocence and since your telegram to me is in the hands of the press, it becomes my duty as a sentinel of the people to do what little I can to mitigate their deception by citing specific evidence of your intention to force a censorship of the press so that your acts and the acts of your communistic bureaucrats might be hidden from public gaze.

I refer as you are quite aware to the statement of your chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Summers of Texas, in connection with the passage of the press censorship bill by the House in the special session of Congress called by you. Under your whip it passed the House and if the Senate had not taken out the poison a publisher who had not gained your approval or the approval of some of your appointees could be sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. The evidence convicting you of a desire to censor the press twenty-five days after you swore to uphold and defend the Constitution is in print in the archives of the House of Representatives. Mr. Summers in his statement says the bill was introduced at the request of the "Executive" and is necessary to the success of the recovery legislation. Mr. President, in my opinion, secrecy and press censorship are never necessary when motives are pure.

Every Government department under you is now cloaked in censorship. Almost every bill that has been forced through Congress by you has been in itself a little censorship, a little dictatorship either giving blanket powers to you or to some of your left or right hand bowers. According to Garrett Garet you usurped in the extra session of Congress 77 powers belonging, under the Constitution, to the Judiciary and Congress and when the next Congress met you asked that these powers be made permanent. How many powers you have taken from Congress and the Judiciary in this last session I have not been able to gather specifically as yet, but they are many. You have created some forty-seven bureaucracies. These bureaucracies are clothed with power to make their regulations law. These regulations cover something like 2,000 pages of dictatorship laws made by your appointees of whom not more than one percent has had the sanction of Congress.

Your Secretary of the Treasury has two billions of the people's money which he is expending under the protection of a press censorship which you demanded and approved.

You demanded and sanctioned passage of a bill permitting you to secretly fix tariff rates and clothe your acts with a press censorship second to nothing ever before even suggested in the legislative annals of the United States, and this, too, contrary to your Democratic Party platform and contrary to your former specific, vigorous and forceful denunciation of such.

The Communications bill originally introduced by you contained a press censorship clause which was stricken out before the bill was passed but it still gives you the power to inaugurate a Government telegraphic news service, under which as one example you immediately put out of business the three radio stations of Mr. Ford.

You ask me for "information" concerning what you yourself have done. Are you attempting to secure the facts so that you may be in a position to refute yourself?

Yours truly,


August 24th, 1934

Yesterday I sent you a telegram in good faith because you had made a statement that persons in the Administration were planning some form of press or radio Government-controlled news agency designed to supersede private news agencies. As any such plan would be contrary to the Administration's policy. I requested you with the utmost politeness to give me the facts behind your charges. Today I received from you a vituperative two page letter which gives no facts and does not answer my simple request. The incident is closed.


Hon. Thomas D. Schall,

Senate Office Building,

Washington, D. C.

My dear Mr. President:

Your second open telegram to me in no wise explains the various attempts of your Administration to secure legislation censoring the press of the United States.

You requested evidence from me concerning your own acts. I cited you three instances of your efforts to keep the public from securing, through the press, facts concerning the attempts of your bureaucracy to communize the United States.

You say you are acting in "good faith." Then why not as a starter remove the censorship bars against the press that you have placed in all your departments?

Your conclusion to me that the "incident is closed" will in no way, Mr. President, satisfy the people of their fear of where you are unconstitutionally steering their Republic. As a Representative of the people I dare not under my oath to support and defend the Constitution let it rest there. The people of the United States want to know from you why their Republic is being gradually cast aside for a dictatorship.

If you desire specific information as to the basis of my reasonable inference, that the Government is about to coordinate its various and sundry publicity functions into a national press service, you have only to assemble the following "makings" thereof:

The White House daily statements, political and economic, which in piecemeal form, not only determine the policies of the world's greatest bureaucracy, but likewise, the major part of political press publication. The free expression of an independent minority giving the public daily exposures of White House blunders and dangerous experiments is naturally disquieting and therefore must be controlled.

The press code which aims to dominate the publishers in the conduct of their business and your opposition to include therein the freedom of press demanded by the publishers' association of which there should have been no dispute, since it is a part of the Constitution and is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

The Rayburn Communications Act, controlling radio, telegraph, cable and telephone communication, which the American Newspaper Guild pronounces a menace and the foundation of the worst form of "dictatorship."

Your control of the business offices of the press by Government investment of $1,000,000,000 in the preferred shares of over 6,000 banks—without the credit support of which the publication of a great daily newspaper, or even a magazine and book publishing enterprise having national circulation, would be a business impossibility.

Your domination of all departments of the bureaucracy, in particular, all bureaus publishing current economic data, by which the great bulk of the data is politically "slanted" and damaging data suppressed, with the evident design to foist upon the public the sundry "bold experiments" of the "New Deal." In short it seems to me your Administration's intent is evident and it has become in lock, stock and barrel simply a group of publicity machinery not yet assembled for efficient and smooth operation but if the people return to you another spineless Congress the defects no doubt will be remedied and "what we fear will have come upon us."

Your Administration has set up its magazine, called Today, edited by Brain Truster Raymond Moley and financed by Admiral Vincent Astor of the Flagship Nourmahal. What is now needed is a day and night national news service that will cover the daily press field.

All dictatorships and most kings and emperors have their official organs. In Germany, President Hitler has created his ministry of publicity with Goebbels at the head. The Russian Soviet has the Taas Agency. Nothing goes out in Italy without Mussolini's sanction. The news service of the Washington Administration might appropriately be called the WHP—or White House Press—which would function as the official news service of the "New Deal."

In all fairness, Mr. President, you must admit that you have the "makings" all ready at hand. Is it too much for me to call the attention of the Nation to the danger threatened and as Patrick Henry well put it, when he was advocating that the Colonies throw off the yoke of George the Third, "I know of no way of judging the future but by the past"?

Sincerely yours,


Franklin D. Roosevelt, Exchange of Letters and Telegrams between the President and Senator Thomas D. Schall. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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