cover image On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency

On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency

Mark Hertsgaard. Farrar Straus Giroux, $22.5 (408pp) ISBN 978-0-374-25197-0

Based on some 175 interviews with top administration officials, senior journalists and news executives, plus analyses of newspaper articles and television stories, Hertsgaard ( Nuclear Inc. ) argues that the Reagan White House not only tamed the media but transformed it into ``a willing mouthpiece of the government'' in its coverage of issues ranging from economic policy to arms control. In addition to providing examples of the media's ``accommodating passivity'' on major issues, he contends that the Reagan propaganda apparatus (or ``Deaver & Co.,'' as he also calls it, referring to the president's former image wizard) chose the First Lady's pet project (i.e., the dangers of drugs) for her to draw attention away from her lavish lifestyle, which the public was beginning to notice and resent. Hertsgaard also claims that evidence suggests a 1980 deal with Iran to delay the hostage release until inauguration day, and that this alleged deal was the genesis of the Iran-contra affair. But these are mere sidelights in this charge-packed attack on the media's ``subservience to state authority'' and the ``witless malevolence'' of recent presidential image-making. Hertsgaard's most controversial indictment is that the nation's press lords deliberately reined in their troops. (September)