Presidential News Conferences

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The term "news conference" refers simply to an interaction between the President and multiple members of the press in a relatively formal setting.  The President and the press meet specifically for the President to respond to press questions. In the early years those interactions were only partly "on the record," as specified by the President, and were not broadcast live.  Indeed in several early instances (e.g., Coolidge, Hoover), reporters submitted questions in writing, and the President selected which to answer.

The modern idea of a press conference dates from the Eisenhower Administration.  In those modern conferences, the President responds to un-vetted questions in a public forum, and the event is nationally broadcast.

A different kind of interaction is referred to as an "exchange with reporters."  An exchange with reporters typically happens incidentally alongside some other meeting or event.  This is often while the President is moving from one location to another and pauses to take questions from reporters (e.g. walking to the helicopter).  Alternatively, the President may decide at the end of remarks to respond to questions from reporters.  Early in the Trump Administration, the White House did not prepare transcripts of many of President Trump's "exchanges." 

In the table below, "Solo-Reg" refers to a conference with the President alone with reporters. A subset of the Solo category is "Prime-Time."  Those conferences have been televised, live, in prime-time (Eastern Time).  In a Joint conference, the President appears together with one or more other speakers.  A typical example of Joint conferences involves a foreign head of government with whom the President has been meeting.

On our Advanced Search page you can find the transcripts of all news conferences in our collection, and select by president or specific time period. ("Document Category" = News Conferences). In several cases, the number of transcripts in our archive is slightly different from the number tabulated by others.  In modern presidencies, the Public Papers title usually includes the words "News Conference," but not always.  An interesting example is a Kennedy conference from 1961. Another interesting example is a surprise Obama appearance in the Press Briefing Room in 2012 that looks a lot like a News Conference.

News Conference (or Press Conference) vs Press Briefing.  Press briefings rarely involve the President--notable exceptions involved Trump's participation in Coronavirus Task Force Press briefings.  Briefings have usually been frequent--sometimes daily--meetings of the White House Press Corps with the Press Secretary (and/or others).  These provide an opportunity for the White House to convey information and for the press corps to ask questions on virtually any topic of interest.  For a period, the Trump Administration discontinued regular press briefings with the Press Secretary.  This link will take you to Press Briefings during the Biden Administration. Our collection includes over 6000 press briefings mostly starting with Clinton.  We have examined press briefings in an Analysis.

A main take-away:  Presidents have many avenues for providing information to the Press, and different Presidents combine them in different ways. Those below are not all the ways, either.  Consider interviews both on and off the record and deliberate "leaks" of information indirectly. 

ALSO SEETable showing length of time in days from presidents taking office until their first solo news conference.

Main Data Table

President Year Years Solo-Reg Prime-time Joint   Total avg/ avg/ Exchg. w Reporters* Press Briefings*
in Office month year
Calvin Coolidge Totals 5.59 407 0 0   407 6.07 72.9 0 0
  1923-24   92 0 0 92        
  1925   88 0 0 88        
  1926   79 0 0 79        
  1927   80 0 0 80        
  1928-29   68 0 0 68        
Herbert Hoover Totals 4 268 0 0   268 5.58 67 0 0
  1929   78 0 0 78        
  1930   86 0 0 86        
  1931   62 0 0 62        
  1932-33   42 0 0 42        
Franklin D. Roosevelt Totals 12.12 881 0 0   881 6.05 72.66 0 0
  1933   81 0 0 81        
  1934   73 0 0 73        
  1935   59 0 0 59        
  1936   67 0 0 67        
  1937   73 0 0 73        
  1938   86 0 0 86        
  1939   84 0 0 84        
  1940   89 0 0 89        
  1941   78 0 0 78        
  1942   66 0 0 66        
  1943   58 0 0 58        
  1944   54 0 0 54        
  1945   13 0 0 13        
Harry S. Truman Totals 7.78 324 0 0   324 3.48 41.73 5 0
  1945   40 0 0 40        
  1946   53 0 0 53        
  1947   38 0 0 38        
  1948   31 0 0 31        
  1949   47 0 0 47        
  1950   39 0 0 39        
  1951   39 0 0 39        
  1952-53   37 0 0 37        
Dwight D. Eisenhower Totals 8 193 0 0   193 2.01 24.13 0 0
  1953   23 0 0 23        
  1954   33 0 0 33        
  1955   19 0 0 19        
  1956   24 0 0 24        
  1957   25 0 0 25        
  1958   21 0 0 21        
  1959   31 0 0 31        
  1960-61   17 0 0 17        
John F. Kennedy Totals 2.84 65 0 0   65 1.91 22.89 0 0
  1961   19 0 0 19        
  1962   27 0 0 27        
  1963   19 0 0 19        
Lyndon B. Johnson Totals 5.17 135 0 0   134 2.18 26.16 13 0
  1963-64   35 0 0 35     0  
  1965   17 0 0 17     3  
  1966   41 0 0 41     3  
  1967   22 0 0 22     3  
  1968-69   20 0 0 20     4  
Richard Nixon Totals 5.55 29 10 0   39 0.59 7.03 27 0
  1969   6 2 0 8     1  
  1970   2 4 0 6     11  
  1971   6 3 0 9     5  
  1972   6 1 0 7     5  
  1973   7 0 0 7     4  
  1974   2 0 0 2     1  
Gerald R. Ford Totals 2.45 36 3 1   40 1.36 16.32 117 0
  1974   4 1 1 6     1  
  1975   18 1 0 19     25  
  1976-77   14 1 0 15     91  
Jimmy Carter Totals 4 52 7 0   59 1.23 14.75 126 1
  1977   22 0 0 22     47  
  1978   18 1 0 19     21  
  1979   10 2 0 12     10 1
  1980-81   2 4 0 6     48  
Ronald Reagan Totals 8 15 31 0   46 0.48 5.75 288 0
  1981   6 0 0 6     37  
  1982   3 5 0 8     46  
  1983   0 7 0 7     39  
  1984   0 5 0 5     37  
  1985   1 5 0 6     24  
  1986   2 5 0 7     21  
  1987   1 2 0 3     46  
  1988-89   2 2 0 4     38  
George Bush Totals 4 90 2 46   138 2.88 34.5 337 0
  1989   27 1 3 31     57  
  1990   29 0 7 36     83  
  1991   22 0 21 43     127  
  1992-93   12 1 15 28     70  
William J. Clinton Totals 8 59 3 131   193 2.01 24.13 1049 2137
  1993   11 1 26 38     253  
  1994   16 1 28 45     137  
  1995   8 1 19 28     108  
  1996   6 0 16 22     126  
  1997   7 0 14 21     122  
  1998   2 0 11 13     84  
  1999   6 0 12 18     110  
  2000-01   3 0 5 8     109  
George W. Bush Totals 8 49 4 157   210 2.18 26.25 472 1823
  2001   4 1 14 19     147  
  2002   3 0 17 20     96  
  2003   3 1 22 26     64  
  2004   5 1 18 24     48  
  2005   8 1 24 33     37  
  2006   11 0 19 30     38  
  2007   10 0 20 30     26  
  2008-09   5 0 23 28     16  
Barack Obama Totals 8 64 4 95   163 1.7 20.38 199 1855
  2009   7 4 16 27     47  
  2010   10 0 9 19     29  
  2011   8 0 12 20     20  
  2012   5 0 6 11     14  
  2013   8 0 14   22     17  
  2014   7 0 15   22     31  
  2015   9 0 11   20     19  
  2016-17   10 0 12   22     22  
Donald J. Trump Totals 4 44 0 44   88 1.83 22 700 372
  2017   1 0 20   21     108  
  2018   5 0 13   18     178  
  2019   3 0 10   13     220  
  2020-21   35 0 1   36     194  
Joseph R. Biden Totals 1.83 11 0 8   19 0.86* 10.38* 267 381
  2021   6 0 3   9     166  
  2022   5 0 5   10     101  
* The APP provides an "average" per year and per month, monthly after the 20th day.  Averages above as of November 20, 2022.

Average News Conferences per Year

Average "Solo" News Conferences per Year

Average "Joint" News Conferences per Year

 


Last Updated

November 22, 2022

Source(s)

• Coolidge data from Lyn Ragsdale, Vital Statistics on the Presidency (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1998), 170-71.
• Roosevelt - present data compiled by Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project.

Also see:  Martha Joynt Kumar, Managing the President's Message:  The White House Communications Operaition (Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007)

Citations

Gerhard Peters. "Presidential News Conferences." The American Presidency Project. Ed. John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters. Santa Barbara, CA: University of California.  https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/323900