Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference at Key West

December 08, 1949

CHARLES G. ROSS, Secretary to the President: Gentlemen, we have with us today as our guest, the distinguished contributor to the Federal Register.1 [Laughter]

1In describing this news conference the New York Times carried the following: "A mere cub reporter intruded himself among veteran White House correspondents here today during a news conference. This cub, a contributor to that obscure daily, the Federal Register, was trying to look like a journalist. He carried a cane and he wore a white pith helmet, and his name was Harry S. Truman.

"This was as complicated and embarrassing a news conference as a reporter cared to cover. It was being held by Charles G. Ross, secretary to the cub reporter, and it concerned the activities of that cub. The cub took down everything his secretary was saying."

The Times added that the President sat with members of the press, a sheet of Western Union message stationery on his table-arm chair.

The President of the United States came down this morning about 7:25. He went for his customary walk at 7:30. In the course of that walk he went down to the dock and saw General Vaughan and General Landry, and Commander MacDonald off on a sailfishing expedition--one on which they hope they will catch a sail fish.

They were accompanied by John R. Redmond, White House gardener, who came down in the mail plane to spend a couple of days to go fishing. These gentlemen expect to return late this afternoon.

The President got back to the house about 7:50, and had breakfast, consisting of grapefruit

Q. California grapefruit?

Mr. Ross [to the President]: California grapefruit?

THE PRESIDENT. It came out of the kitchen, Charlie, I don't know.

Mr. Ross: Florida grapefruit. [Laughter] Then bacon, toast, and coffee and milk.

He then went down to the dock and saw off a second boatload--that was at 8:45--consisting of General Graham, Mr. David Lloyd, Mr. Charles S. Murphy, Mr. Stephen J. Spingarn, Mr. Philip Maguire, Mr. Joseph Feeney of the White House staff, who also went fishing. They will be back in time for lunch today. They have with them as their guest, Chief of Secret Service O. E. Baugho man, who is down here for a couple of days.

Mr. Frank Pace, the Director of the Budget, will arrive this afternoon.

Q. Frank who?

Q. Pace.

Mr. Ross: To discuss the forthcoming Budget Message with the President. The length of his stay is indefinite.

Q. What time does he come in, Charlie?

Mr. Ross: Sometime late this afternoon, I don't know the exact time.

I think that's it.

Q. Mr. President, is this an accurate report?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Ross will answer that question. [Laughter]

Mr. Ross: The report is entirely accurate, I assure you.

Q. Can we have the exclusive rights to your dispatch to the Federal Register?

THE PRESIDENT. As soon as you gentlemen are through, I have some questions that I want to ask, Mr. Ross.

Q. Are we in a position to answer them honestly, Mr. President?

Q. He is going to ask Charlie.

Q. I can't think of any. Go ahead, Mr. President. [Laughter]

Mr. Ross: Well, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I would like to know what time each one of you went to bed last night. I want an honest answer, and Mr. Ross is taking it down--Jack Romagna will--I would like to know exactly what time you went to bed. Come on, Tony?

Ernest B. Vaccaro, Associated Press: I was in bed at 12:15. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. A very reasonable hour. What about you, Smitty?

Merriman Smith, United Press Associations: One o'clock, roughly. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. That means maybe two or three. Where's Bob Nixon? What time did he go to bed?

Robert Nixon, International News Service: I was in bed before midnight, Mr. President. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. You beat Tony, then. All right!--Bill Hillman, what time?

William Hillman, Mutual Broadcasting System: Midnight.

THE PRESIDENT. I am looking after you-I am looking after you.

William D. Hassett, Secretary to the President: I'm glad they're not under oath. [Much laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. How about you, Tony Leviero?

Anthony Leviero, New York Times: 1:15.

THE PRESIDENT. What time did this broadcaster go to bed?

Frank Bourgholtzer, National Broadcasting Company: I'm afraid it was sometime after one.

THE PRESIDENT. Sometime. Indefinite!

Joe Fox?--I'll bet he was in bed.

Joseph A. Fox, Washington Star: Ninethirty, Mr. President. [Loud laughter]

Q. He was in bed off and on all night. Mr. Ross: a.m. or p.m., Joe?

Q. He kept us all awake, he kept going to bed so often. [More laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. How many of you have had breakfast this morning? [A show of hands raised indicated nearly all.] Good-good. Just a small percentage have not had breakfast. How many have written to their wives at least once a week since you have been down here? [Another show of hands] Tony, you had better check up, because I have had several telegrams wanting to know what these fellows were doing. That's the reason I am checking up on you.

Who takes care of the local finances around here?

Q. Western Union.

Q. Trade winds.

THE PRESIDENT. You have no banker?

Q. McEachern of Western Union has been holding the bag for us.

THE PRESIDENT. Suppose I wanted to cash a check, how am I going to get it if I don't get to the bank?

Carrol Linkins, Western Union: We'll take care of it, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Are you enjoying yourselves?

Voices: Yes, sir!

THE PRESIDENT. You have everything you need to eat. I don't ask you about the drinks, because I know you get enough of that.

Q. Now we will ask you, how are you enjoying yourself?

THE PRESIDENT. Perfect. Best vacation I have ever had down here.

Q. What did he say?

Q. Best vacation he has had down here.

THE PRESIDENT. Best vacation. And I think the family enjoyed it immensely.

Q. They had to go.

THE PRESIDENT. Neither one of them wanted to go, that's true.

Well, thank you, Mr. Ross! [Laughter]

Mr. Ross: Have you any further questions?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't think of any impertinent ones. If I could I would ask them. I think the next one that I would want to ask is too personal.

Well, I hope you will continue to enjoy yourselves.

Q. I wish we could see those notes, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. I will let you have it as soon as it is typed.

Q. Coming back to see us again?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm coming back, I'm warning you! I'm coming back some morning earlier, to make an inspection to see just how clean you keep your apartments!

Note: President Truman's two hundred and seventh news conference was held in the Press Room of Bachelor Officers Quarters No. 128 at the United States Naval Base, Key West, Fla., at 10 a.m. on Thursday, December 8, 1949.

Harry S Truman, The President's News Conference at Key West Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229814

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