1969 November 13

“Impudent Snobs”: Vice President Agnew Attacks News Media


Vice President Spiro Agnew, in a Des Moines, Iowa, speech on this day entitled “On the National Media,” attacked the national news media for its coverage of the Vietnam War and President Nixon’s policies on the war. The speech was widely regarded as a veiled threat of a crackdown on the media, particularly the three television networks that were regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Protests against President Nixon’s Vietnam War policy escalated with the first Moratorium on October 15, 1969; Agnew’s speech came two days before the second and even larger Moratorium on November 15, 1969. Agnew took the lead for the administration in making the most strident criticisms of the anti-war movement.

Agnew resigned as Vice President in October 1973 because of corruption charges from his earlier political career in Maryland.

In addition to the threat to freedom of the press posed by Agnew’s remarks, the Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (August 15, 1967); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example high school student protests (February 24, 1969); censorship of television programs (February 25, 1968); and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

View Agnew’s speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utGlgpI9tLw

Read the transcript: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/spiroagnewtvnewscoverage.htm

Read all of Agnew’s controversial speeches: John R. Coyne, Jr., ed., The Impudent Snobs: Agnew vs the Intellectual Establishment (1972)

Watch footage of the October 15, 1969 Moratorium: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUMh-R4hCDg

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