||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2009)|
September 13, 1939 |
|Other names||Larry M. Speakes|
|Occupation||Former White House spokesman|
Mr Speakes was noted for always seeing the bright side of issues. During the beginnings of the AIDS crisis of the early 1980's, Mr. Speakes was able to maintain a good sense of humor about Americans dying a horrible death from an unknown disease. Some felt that his easy laughter helped set the tone for the Reagan Administration's attitude towards and lack of help for the victims of the disease. Others felt that it was evidence of an antipathy toward gays from the highest reaches of the administration, something that would persist throughout the Reagan years.
Speakes received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Mississippi. He served as editor of the Oxford (Mississippi) Eagle in 1961, and as managing editor of the Bolivar Commercial in Cleveland, Mississippi from 1962 to 1966. From 1966 to 1968 he worked as general manager and editor of Progress Publishers of Leland, Mississippi.
Senate press secretary
Speakes headed to Washington, DC in 1968, serving as press secretary to Senator James Eastland of Mississippi. In this capacity, he worked as spokesman for the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary and a coordinator of the senator's reelection campaign in 1972.
Work in the White House
The White House tapped Speakes in 1974 as a Staff Assistant and soon became the Press Secretary to the Special Counsel to the President at the height of the Watergate scandal. Upon Nixon's resignation, President Ford appointed Speakes to be Assistant Press Secretary to the President. Speakes served as Bob Dole's press secretary during his unsuccessful vice-presidential run with Ford.
After briefly serving as President Ford's personal press secretary in 1977, Speakes ventured into the private sector as vice president of the international public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton until 1981. After the 1980 presidential campaign, he worked on the staff of the Reagan-Bush team, helping to "straighten out" the press operation, eventually becoming deputy spokesman for the President-elect during the transition. Before the election, Speakes had considered working for the campaigns of George H.W. Bush, Jack Kemp, and Alexander Haig; however, Bush's people never got back to him, Speakes decided that Kemp was "too hot" (meaning too quick with an answer) for television, and was advised by another Washington insider, "You can do that [join the Haig team] if you want to, but let me tell you one thing: Al Haig ain't going to be President."
Speakes laughed about AIDS during an October 1982 press briefing:
Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement [from] the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?
Mr. Speakes: What’s AIDS?
Q: Over a third of them have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?
Mr. Speakes: I don’t have it. Do you? (Laughter.)
When James Brady was shot in the assassination attempt on President Reagan on March 30, 1981, he was unable to return to work, though he retained the title of "Press Secretary" for the duration of Reagan's term. In Brady's absence, Speakes took over the job of handling the daily press briefings.
On June 17, 1981, Speakes was appointed "Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary."
On August 5, 1983, Speakes was appointed "Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy Press Secretary," and remained in that post until January 1987, when he resigned and Marlin Fitzwater took over the role.
- Ross, Alex (November 12, 2012). "A CRITIC AT LARGE LOVE ON THE MARCHReflections on the gay community’s political progress—and its future.". "Love on the March". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
- Donaldson, Sam. Hold on, Mr. President. New York: Random House, 1987. (ISBN 0-394-55393-4)
- Announcement on Speakes receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal
- The Presidency Project - Appointment of Larry M. Speakes as Deputy Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy Press Secretary to the President, June 17, 1981
|White House Press Secretary
(acting press secretary; position still officially held by James Brady)
1981 – 1987