Presidential sparring with the media is no new topic. Richard Nixon was recorded on the telephone saying, “The press is the enemy”. Thomas Jefferson, who was often a vocal supporter of the free press wrote “nothing can now be believed which is written in the press”. Abraham Lincoln was often ridiculed and bashed by the press. He routinely took to pen and paper and wrote personal letters to newspapers and publishers to retaliate. He even went so far as to leak these personal letters to rival newspapers of the editors he was addressing in these letters. No matter your current political opinion, President Trump has broken new ground with his preferred method of communication, Twitter, to joust with the media.
In Washington’s day critics hid behind pseudonyms to maintain their anonymity, as opposed to Twitter handles. They had names like “Belisarius” “Peter Hothead” and “Leonidas” that appeared regularly in newspapers bashing Washington. Fortunately, Washington was one of few presidents who rarely responded to critics, so it is doubtful we would see a similar Twitter war between the him and the media as we see between President Trump and the media today. Washington never responded to insults in the press. He did offer this insight in a published version of his farewell address in 1796:
“As this address, fellow citizens will be the last I shall ever make you, and as some of the gazettes of the United States have teemed with all the invective that disappointment, ignorance of facts, and malicious falsehoods could invent, to misrepresent my politics and affections: to wound my reputation and feelings: and to weaken, if not entirely destroy the confidence you had been pleased to repose in me: it might be expected at the parting scene of my public life that I should take some notice of such virulent abuse. But, as heretofore, I shall pass them over in utter silence…”
Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
If mic drops were trending in 1796 this would be the most classic one in our nation’s history. President Washington completely ignores and dismisses the press, his critics, and the gazettes. While Washington may not have used Twitter in a battle to maintain his reputation with the public against the press, I feel as though his affections for his countrymen, and his nation, were so strong that he would have used his social media to speak words of wisdom in times of need. Here are some fun examples using some of his most famous quotes under the Twitter handle @realgeorgewashington.
George Washington @realgeorgewashington: “99% of failures come from people who make excuses.” #noexcuses #motivationmonday
George Washington @realgeorgewashington: “There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.” #thoughtfulthursday
George Washington @realgeorgewashington: “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” #wcw #imwithher #happymothersday
He may even go as far as to make a historical reference with a comical twist such as this:
George Washington @realgeorgewashington: “Throwback to that one time we were outnumbered and outgunned and beat the red coats in the war.” #throwbackthursday #victory