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FDR attacks fake news
.Roosevelt, Franklin D.

An intriguing group of two memos initialed “FDR” and a letter signed in full “Franklin D. Roosevelt” all to Lowell Mellett. The 12/31/40 memo thanks Mellett for a copy of his lengthy and detailed letter to TIME Editor Henry Luce taking issue with TIME’s coverage of the Administration along with Luce’s letter sponding. FDR makes some pointed observations about Luce’s character. He also reveals his own thoughts about what is now fashionably called fake news. “You and I can admit that TIME makes false reporting extremely attractive.” A second memo 5/5/42 comments on photos of “a glorious room in a magnificent and historic building, which …will preserve democracy for the people of the United States against the sordid attacks of a subversive press.” The building was most likely the home to the newly formed Office of War Information which opened the following month. Finally there is a signed letter 3/22/44 accepting Mellett’s resignation as he was preparing to leave the White House and return to journalism at the Washington Star. FDR repeats his negative views of columnists and publishers. He responds to Mellett’s parting advice that at least the Star is open to printing points of view contrary to their own anti-Administration bias. “In these times, when it is more than normally necessary to achieve the fullest understanding of vital public issues, no greater service could be performed by the publishers, in my opinion.”

Lowell Mellett was a well-known pro New Deal journalist. FDR tapped him to head the Office of Government Reports and then the Bureau of Motion Pictures. While heading the BMP he supervised the series of movies known as “Why We Fight”, Directed by Frank Capra to build public support for the war effort. A nice grouping shedding some light on FDR’s private feelings about the media.
One the eve of World War II FDR created the Office of Government Reports to coordinate the collection of news and public opinion for the Administration. It also worked to organize the vast amount of information created by the government. At times it also stepped into the role of trying to coordinate the messages coming out of the government so the Administration’s perspective was heard. Once the U.S. entered the war some of the functions related to foreign policy and war efforts were transferred to the newly created Office of War Information. It housed a Bureau of Motion Pictures which created informational movies, some might label propaganda, about the war effort.

(See Dwight Eisenhower letter on the press)