Following is a statement by Lisa Nicole Matthews, 114th President of the National Press Club, in response to a letter received from President Joseph R. Biden, January 30, 2021 on the occasion of her inauguration:
The National Press Club has always worked to maintain a respectful and civil relationship with the president of the United States. Every president since Theodore Roosevelt has visited the Club — most of them during their presidency. And we extend an honorary membership to presidents while they are in office. One wall at the Press Club is devoted to presidents from Warren Harding to Bill Clinton, holding up their membership cards.
It has been a warm tradition for presidents of the United States to offer a form of congratulations to newly inaugurated presidents of the National Press Club. John F. Kennedy attended the Press Club inauguration, as did President Reagan. President Obama sent us a video one year. But things have been different these past four years. We extended an olive branch to the 45th President by allowing our venue to be used for one of his official inaugural balls – out of respect for the office and a sense of tradition. We wanted a civil and cordial relationship with the office of the president. It was not to be. Our most recent president had no respect for the press and actively worked to degrade trust in our institutions and brands.
So, I was heartened on the night of my inauguration, Saturday, January 30 to receive a letter from President Biden. To me, this thoughtful letter signaled the reestablishment of civility between the Press Club and the White House. This is just one of many signs that things are going to get better in this country. I am grateful to President Biden for the gesture and for the kindness and encouragement in his message. This does not mean we will not ask hard questions of his cabinet officers when they come to visit. And of course there will be stories that are critical of POTUS and his policies and decisions. He expects that. Most presidents do. They know it is our job as journalists, and that overall it makes our democracy stronger and helps keep elected officials accountable to the people.
As for President Biden, we have a membership card with his name on it and I look forward to the day, when COVID has been defeated, and he can walk over to receive it so we can add his picture to the wall of presidents. He has our best wishes, as do all presidents. We wish him the best as we hold him to account. In this way we both go forward as does our country and our democracy.