Larry Speakes: Press secretary to Ronald Reagan who later admitted he had put words into the president’s mouth
Friday 17 January 2014
An assassination attempt plunged Larry Speakes into the brightest of national spotlights as chief spokesman for President Ronald Reagan. When Reagan’s press secretary James Brady was severely wounded in the 1981 attempt on the president’s life, Speakes was thrust into the eye of the storm. As White House spokesman for six years, a long tenure in the sensitive post, he was credited with 2,000 news media briefings.
He provided information on some of the most significant events of the era, including the historic meetings between Reagan and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He also commanded the podium in the West Wing amid the furore over administration plans to trade arms to Iran in return for support of the Nicaraguan contras. Unlike most presidential spokesmen, he was officially a deputy press secretary, in deference to Brady.
An uproar broke out after he had left the White House with the revelation in his memoirs that he had put words in the president’s mouth. As disclosed in his memoir, a fabricated quotation was offered to the news media at the 1985 summit between Reagan and Gorbachev. It went: “There is much that divides us, but I believe the world breathes easier because we are talking here together.”
Despite his acknowledgement that what he did was wrong, Speakes resigned from his post-White House position with what was then Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith. Fault was also found with his attribution to Reagan words spoken by Secretary of State George Shultz when the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983.
Reporters found him hard-working and personally amiable, but many clashed with him over their desire to obtain more information. There were exchanges about Reagan’s skin cancer, while shortly before the US invaded Grenada he said it was “preposterous” to believe it would happen.
After studying journalism, Speakes, a banker’s son, became a staff aide in the Nixon administration, then became the spokesman for James St Clair, a special presidential counsel for the Watergate hearings. Following Richard Nixon’s resignation, Speakes remained at the White House as an assistant press secretary to President Ford.
Larry Melvin Speakes, US government press spokesman: born Cleveland, Mississippi 13 September 1939; married three times (four children); died Cleveland 10 January 2014.
© The Washington Post
- 1 Secret Cinema interview: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Iraq crisis: End 'very near' for Christianity after Isis takeover, says Bishop
Israel-Gaza conflict: John Prescott condemns bombardment of Gaza as a 'war crime'
Margaret Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’
Israel-Gaza conflict: Obama presses Netanyahu to call ‘immediate and unconditional’ Gaza ceasefire
Lauren Goodger calls for tougher laws on revenge porn after sex tape leaks online
Iraq crisis: End 'very near' for Christianity after Isis takeover, says Bishop
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...
Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...
£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...