Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton — Gene Gibbons surveyed six presidents from one of the venerable vantage points of U.S. journalism.


By Nelson Graves

Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton — Gene Gibbons surveyed six presidents from one of the venerable vantage points of U.S. journalism.

Gibbons reported from the White House for three decades, first with UPI, then with Reuters, and he watched as president after president left his mark on the office.

Watergate, the end of the Vietnam War, two global oil crises, the Iran hostage crisis, the Iran-Contra scandal, impeachment — a White House reporter sees history in the making, and those years were filled with history.

(To view the interview with Gibbons, click here.)

Gibbons’s most memorable story? The day Jimmy Carter relinquished the presidency to Ronald Reagan, and 52 U.S. hostages were released in Tehran.

His most memorable trip? When he accompanied Reagan in June 1984 to the 40th anniversary celebrations of the D-Day Allied landing in Normandy, and Reagan delivered a speech “with Shakespearean echoes” at Pointe du Hoc, where Gibbons’s uncle and other U.S. soldiers had faced withering gunfire.

“Go for it.”

Among the great world leaders he covered, Gibbons cites Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gibbons reveals which president he would invite to dinner at his home and says why he thinks the current U.S. president, Barack Obama, is facing such sustained criticism despite an economic recovery.

Among his decades of memories, he recalls an embarrassing first visit to the Oval Office and an expense account item after dinner with a lame-duck leader.

Offering one reason why the media attract such scorn nowadays, Gibbons says people don’t like to hear bad news, and the media are often delivering bad news.

Any advice for a young person thinking of journalism as a career? “I’d tell them, ‘Go for it.””

(The interview with Gibbons is the second in a series of chats with News-Decoder correspondents. Click here for our interview with David Schlesinger.)


ggibbonsGene Gibbons covered U.S. Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton during his career with Reuters and UPI. He was past president of the Radio-Television Correspondents Association and served as a Presidential Debate panelist in 1992 and as a Joan M. Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2010. An ex-U.S. Army officer, he once served as press aide to U.S. Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

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