The ‘sassing of the president’ remembered

Journalists and presidents have sparred for far longer than many of us have been alive, but for a few old-timers who still remember the Nixon administration, it was hard not to take a trip down memory lane today to see how the things have changed in the category of “shocking” at presidential news conferences.

Jim Acosta, the CNN reporter, is the kind of foil every president has but their ongoing battle reached a new level at today’s news conference.

Fun stuff.

Let’s take that stroll down memory lane.

The year was 1974, the height of the Watergate scandal — and Dan Rather of CBS News, then the White House correspondent, caused jaws to drop when he had the temerity to react this way to a presidential tweak.

It occurred during a live broadcast in Houston.

“Are you running for something?” the president asked Rather after he’d gotten some applause.

“No sir, Mr. President. Are you?” Rather responded.

NBC News president Reuven Frank said Rather “smart-assed” Nixon and there was a national debate over whether the media had crossed the line.

The next day, a young college student who one day go on to be an average observer of news, sat in class when a journalism professor characterized the significance of the moment by comparing journalists to doberman pinschers.

“Once they bite you, they won’t think twice about biting you again,” he said. “You have to put them down.”