Gerald R. Ford photo

Remarks Announcing Appointment of Ron Nessen as Press Secretary to the President

September 20, 1974

This is an opportunity for me to make a very, very pleasing announcement. I think I am very, very fortunate on this occasion to have the opportunity of announcing to all of you and to others, in fact, that Ron Nessen is going to be my Press Secretary.

Ron, as you know, has a superb reputation--standing--in the electronic media, but I was pleased to find out in my discussions with him that he has a background in the writing press.

So, we are very fortunate to have someone like Ron who not only knows the writing but also the electronic press.

I had the opportunity of getting acquainted with Ron in the many, many trips that he took with me on Air Force Two. I think the number is some 57. So, in that luxurious aircraft--[laughter]--in the many travels we made around the country, I was given the opportunity of getting to know Ron very well.

I admired his skill and objectivity as a reporter. I enjoyed his company. I was greatly impressed with his ability and overall approach to the problems that I faced and others did.

So, when I asked Ron if he would take the job, I couldn't have been more pleased.

I must say that this announcement comes at a somewhat unique time. I just spent 2 1/2 hours with one of the leading Communists, and now I am about to meet with one of the most wealthy and influential capitalists.1 So in between those two meetings, it is my privilege and pleasure to indicate to all of you that Ron Nessen will be my Press Secretary, and I couldn't be more pleased.

MR. NESSEN. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Fine, Ron. You are the boss.

MR. NESSEN. My wife said to tell you that this entitles you to one free dancing lesson. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I need it. [Laughter]

MR. NESSEN. Thank you very much for the trust you put in me, and I will try to live up to it.

THE PRESIDENT. I have no doubt about it, Ron.

So, I will turn the job over to Ron. He has my full backing and support, and I think I am very lucky to have somebody like him handling the job.

MR. NESSEN. You are not going to leave me out here all alone, are you?

THE PRESIDENT. You better get used to it. No, I am going to stand here until you finish your remarks.

MR. NESSEN. Well, I did want to say a couple of things.

I hope the White House press corps is ready for another Ron. I am a Ron, but not a Ziegler, I can tell you that.

I do want to say a couple of things. One is that I will never knowingly lie to the White House press corps. I will never knowingly mislead the White House press corps, and, I think, if I ever do, you would be justified in questioning my continued usefulness in this job.

My concept of the job is that a Press Secretary does not always have to agree with the decisions of the President. I think a Press Secretary's job is to report to you the actions of the President, why he has taken the actions, how he has arrived at the action.

I don't think that the Press Secretary and the press are natural antagonists. I think we really both have the same aim. I have been out on the other side for a long time, and now I am on this side, but I think we have the same aim, which is to get as much news as possible about what goes on in this place to the American people.

Obviously, the Press Secretary needs to know what is going on to do that job, and I have been assured that I will know what is going on.

I don't expect to be a salesman for the President. I am not going to try to sell his programs to you.

I am apolitical. Like most of you, I have worked on covering most of the political campaigns of the last 15 years. The last time I voted, I am ashamed to say, was in 1960, when I voted for John Kennedy. Other than that, I have no affiliation with any political party.

I think my models in trying to do this job will be Bill Moyers for his knowledge and his honesty and the amount of information that he put out, Pierre Salinger for the good humor and the good fellowship and the grace that he brought .to this job, and I would hope to be able to earn as much respect from you as Jerry terHorst had.

I think it is probably too late to go back to a honeymoon, but maybe we could have a trial reconciliation.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Ron. We are very proud to have him, and we look forward to working together. I will leave you to your friends. Thank you very much.

1 The President was referring to his meetings with Soviet Foreign Minister A. A. Gromyko and David Rockefeller.

Note: The President spoke at 1:45 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. Following the President's remarks, Press Secretary Nessen participated in a question-and-answer session with reporters.

Gerald R. Ford, Remarks Announcing Appointment of Ron Nessen as Press Secretary to the President Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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