JFK addresses the Society of Newspaper Editors during their annual convention in Washington D.C. on April 20, 1961. The bulk of this address was regarding the recent failed invasion of Cuba by, what we now know were a CIA-backed paramilitary group of Cuban exiles. The invasion took place on the 17th of April, three days before this address. And at the time there was no indication that the CIA was heavily involved. So perhaps the tone of the address may seem ironic in retrospect, the intention of the role of the Presidency and the Press is probably more relevant today than it was 56 years ago:
President Kennedy: “The President of a great democracy such as ours, and the editors of great newspapers such as yours, owe a common obligation to the people: an obligation to present the facts, to present them with candor, and to present them in perspective. It is with that obligation in mind that I have decided in the last 24 hours to discuss briefly at this time the recent events in Cuba.
On that unhappy island, as in so many other arenas of the contest for freedom, the news has grown worse instead of better. I have emphasized before that this was a struggle of Cuban patriots against a Cuban dictator. While we could not be expected to hide our sympathies, we made it repeatedly clear that the armed forces of this country would not intervene in any way.
Any unilateral American intervention, in the absence of an external attack upon ourselves or an ally, would have been contrary to our traditions and to our international obligations. But let the record show that our restraint is not inexhaustible. Should it ever appear that the inter-American doctrine of non-interference merely conceals or excuses a policy of nonaction–if the nations of this Hemisphere should fail to meet their commitments against outside Communist penetration-then I want it clearly understood that this Government will not hesitate in meeting its primary obligations which are to the security of our Nation!
Should that time ever come, we do not intend to be lectured on “intervention” by those whose character was stamped for all time on the bloody streets of Budapest! Nor would we expect or accept the same outcome which this small band of gallant Cuban refugees must have known that they were chancing, determined as they were against heavy odds to pursue their courageous attempts to regain their Island’s freedom.
But Cuba is not an island unto itself; and our concern is not ended by mere expressions of nonintervention or regret. This is not the first time in either ancient or recent history that a small band of freedom fighters has engaged the armor of totalitarianism.
It is not the first time that Communist tanks have rolled over gallant men and women fighting to redeem the independence of their homeland. Nor is it by any means the final episode in the eternal struggle of liberty against tyranny, anywhere on the face of the globe, including Cuba itself.
Mr. Castro has said that these were mercenaries. According to press reports, the final message to be relayed from the refugee forces on the beach came from the rebel commander when asked if he wished to be evacuated. His answer was: “I will never leave this country.” That is not the reply of a mercenary. He has gone now to join in the mountains countless other guerrilla fighters, who are equally determined that the dedication of those who gave their lives shall not be forgotten, and that Cuba must not be abandoned to the Communists. And we do not intend to abandon it either!”
The above is an excerpt of that speech given by JFK in 1961 – you can hear the entire address by hitting the Play button. It’s a reminder of the role of the Press and the role of the White House with the Press.