President Roosevelt goes to ‘hideaway’ (2-25-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (February 25, 1944)

Taking a rest –
President goes to ‘hideaway’

Roosevelt relaxes from press and public

With President Roosevelt’s party (UP) –
President Roosevelt was relaxing today away from Washington and in seclusion from the press and public of the country.

The apparent reason for his absence from the White House at this time was that his physician, VAdm. Ross T. McIntire, has urged the President since his winter attack of influenza to get away from Washington for a rest. There was no official explanation available here, however.

The voluntary censorship code prohibits detailed reporting of Mr. Roosevelt’s movements outside Washington without an appropriate official authority.

Reporters not invited

Correspondents for seven newspapers and two press associations – men whose regular assignment is reporting the activities of the Chief Executive – followed him to the vicinity of his retreat.

They were not invited by the White House staff, but made the trip nevertheless to be near as possible to the President in the event of major developments involving the war in general and particularly because of the political crisis touched off by Senator Alben W. Barkley (D-KY).

The newspapermen were told soon after their arrival here that they could expect no contact whatever with the President; that no inquiries could be received or answered; that all the news involving the President would come from Washington through the White House Press Secretary Stephen T. Early.

Has own communications

While the President maintained no contact with the press at his retreat, he had facilities for instantaneous communication with Washington. Although out of town, he was able to follow closely the political turmoil on Capitol Hill which followed his tax bill veto and Mr. Barkley’s denunciation of the veto message.

Despite the stringent official secrecy covering the President’s whereabouts and movements, it was the Chief Executive himself who first disclosed that he was “out of town” when he sent Mr. Barkley a letter asking him not to resign as Senate Democratic Leader.

First rebuff

Mr. Roosevelt has made numerous trips since Pearl Harbor, and on a few of them, reporters have been invited to accompany him. This occasion was the first time since the war began that the White House correspondents followed the President without official sanction.

Reporters criticized by Roosevelt aide

Washington (UP) –
White House Secretary Stephen T. Early said today that President Roosevelt is out of the city for a rest, but emphasized that his basic health is “good – very good.”

Commenting on dispatches which said the President apparently left Washington because of his health, Mr. Early said:

About 100 newspaper reporters saw him at a press conference on Tuesday. He looked all right then, didn’t he? Well, he is all right. Nothing has happened since the press conference to change the situation. His health is good – very good.

Discusses departure

Mr. Early took occasion at his morning press conference to also comment on the departure of a group of newspaper and press-association correspondents, regularly assigned to cover the President, to a place near which the Chief Executive is resting.

The group left Wednesday after Senate Leader Alben W. Barkley precipitated a political crisis with his announcement that he would resign.

Dispatches from some of the correspondents today bore the dateline “With President Roosevelt” and others “With the President’s party.” Mr. Early said these datelines are incorrect.

‘Miles from President’

He said:

The correspondents are miles away from the President.

Mr. Early also said the correspondents who left the capital did not deserve great credit for going near the President.

He said:

They were told in confidence by this office where the President was. They knew, therefore, where to go. They were also told that if the President had any news to give out, it would be given out here and not by the staff accompanying the President.

The correspondents left strictly on their own, with the knowledge that there would be no news where they were going and that any news would be given out here. The news has been given out here.

No appointments

The correspondents also were told, as were all correspondents regularly covering the White House, that the President had no appointments: that he was going away only for a rest.

Mr. Early explained that it was not feasible for William D. Hassett, newly-appointed White House secretary, or other members of the White House staff who are with the President to issue any news.

He said that if either Mr. Hassett or any other accredited staff member made a statement to the correspondents, it would be recognized as coming from a competent authority and therefore subject to publication under the censorship code.

‘Security involved’

Mr. Early said:

Thus, President Roosevelt’s whereabouts would be revealed to the world. Let’s not forget that this is wartime, and that the question of security is involved. The newspaper code recognizes these questions of security.

We will comply with the code and give President Roosevelt the security to which he is entitled and will not reveal his whereabouts.

Mr. Early said that it was only right to point out that the correspondents who “left Washington uninvited to travel to a point nearby the President’s abode” did not advise his office in advance of their departure.

‘In face of the fact’

Mr. Early said:

This was in the face of the fact that they had been told before the President left Washington that he was going away for a rest and would have no appointments.

The President is in instantaneous and immediate communication with the White House. Developments here of a news nature have been given out immediately to the press and would have been given to the correspondents who left Washington if they had remained here.

As you know, the White House is the only news outlet for the President while he is off the record.

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