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Transcripts

Interview 1 – June 28, 2007

Johnson:
This is Kathleen Johnson interviewing Tina Tate, the former director of the House Radio-Television Gallery. The date is June 28, 2007, and the interview is taking place in the Legislative Resource Center, Cannon House Office Building. Today, I would like to start off with some biographical information. When and where were you born?
Tate:
I was born September 5, 1944, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Johnson:
What were the names and occupations of your parents?
Tate:
My mother was Mary Elizabeth Barnes, and she was a homemaker. She worked one small part of her life, but not very long, where my grandmother worked all of her life. My father was Clifford Holmes McGaughey, Sr., and he had a sporting goods store that was, at that time, the premier independent sporting goods store in the South.
Johnson:
What schools did you attend?
Tate:
I went to Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, and got an A.A. It is now a four-year school, but at that time it was only a two-year school. Then, I went to Emory College and got a B.A. History was my major.
Johnson:
Before working for the House of Representatives, what were some of your jobs?
Tate:
Actually, I only worked for two places, well, three, before I worked for the House. One, when my husband was in law school, I worked at the University of Georgia libraries, and two, I worked for Merrill Lynch, both in Atlanta and then transferred up here when we came to Washington. I worked for Merrill Lynch here and then I went to work for Cox Broadcasting. That was one of the first independent television bureaus to open in Washington. Many have opened since; many have closed since. Cox is one of the only ones that opened and stayed opened the entire time, and this was in 1970, and I went to work as their office person, receptionist, office manager. I was the only one that wasn’t a journalist, and it was a very small bureau, and that’s how I got to know what the Hill did because the camera crews and correspondents would work on the Hill, and they would work with the gallery, so that’s how I became familiar with the galleries.
Johnson:
You mentioned you were married. What’s the name of your husband, and when did you get married?
Tate:
My husband’s real name is Danny Clyde Tate. It’s not Daniel, it’s Danny. It’s very Southern. We were married in Atlanta in 1966.
Johnson:
Your husband worked for Senator [Herman] Talmadge?
Tate:
He did. That’s how we got to Washington. He graduated law school and was waiting to pass the bar and wanted to do something, and a friend of his, a gentleman, who later became a Member of Congress, [George] Buddy Darden, suggested to him that he apply to Senator Talmadge because Senator Talmadge was the junior Senator from Georgia at that time, and he would hire young law graduates to work for a couple of years in Washington and then they would go back and practice law in Georgia. So, that was the original plan.
We came up in September of 1969, with the idea of working for a couple of years. During that time, the senior Senator retired, Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, and there is a statue of Russell in the Russell Building. He retired, making Talmadge the senior Senator, so there were more opportunities on staff, and Dan stayed longer. And he was getting ready to leave, and [Jimmy] Carter won the White House and the transition office worked out of Talmadge’s office, and that’s how he got with the Carter Administration. So, by this time it was the ’70s, now, all of our working career; I was already on the Hill. All of our working careers [4:00] were geared toward Washington. I did have one job that was prior to this that was a part-time job. I was a guide at the capitol in Georgia. So, almost all of my life, I worked in capitols, one place or another.
Johnson:
What do you recall about your first day on the job in the radio-TV gallery?
Tate:
I started in July and one of the things…we had a wonderful gentleman who was the—then they called them superintendents, so the name changed later on—but the head of the gallery at that time was Bob Menaugh, and he was such a gracious gentleman.1 He was just a lovely, lovely man, and he had guaranteed me that when they hired me, that even though I was not going to get paid right away, that I would be paid because the payroll for that month was held up due to a Member of Congress, Wayne Hays, who was chairman of House Administration, held up the payrolls for all the new hires because he was having a fight with another Congressman from, I believe, Minneapolis; I think it was—his name starts with F.—I’m blanking out, but he was on the International Relations Committee and was challenging Hays in some way on the International Relations Committee so he held up the whole payroll, everybody that was being assigned, because it affected some of this Member’s hires.2 So, it was six weeks before we got our first paycheck, and he kept saying, “It’s going to be fine, you will get paid. We guarantee it will be all right because it has nothing to do with you, and it didn’t.”
Johnson:
Were you the first woman to work in the gallery?
Tate:
I was the first woman to work in the House Radio-TV Gallery or the print gallery. There was a woman in the periodical gallery.3 There was a woman who was actually the superintendent there. Shortly after that, she got to be superintendent, I believe, but she wasn’t superintendent for very long.
Johnson:
Were you aware at the time that you were making history?
Tate:
I was aware, at the time, that they never had a woman on staff and that they were actually actively looking for someone on staff. There is a gentleman who still works with me who works now for ABC News who was there at the time, Dean Norland. He was on the board because the journalists hire, they actually designate, by the rules of the House, the employees of the galleries, and they were actively looking for a woman. Up until that time, they had believed that a woman couldn’t do the job, and at this time, for whatever reason, they decided it would be a good idea to see if that was not incorrect. They actually gave some credence to having a woman. It was a plus, for once, where when I worked at Cox Broadcasting, my boss at the time, the bureau chief there, said there would never be a woman anchor because nobody would ever believe her, and that was the atmosphere. In the ’70s, there were many journalism professional associations that did not allow women even to be members. There were several groups that were (more print than radio and television) established because in order to have a journalism group of women, they had to be all women. Now, most of those are integrated.
Johnson:
Since there are so few women working on the Hill—were so few women working on the Hill at the time—do you remember having any role models, other women employees or perhaps women Members?
Tate:
Cokie Roberts.4 Cokie Roberts. She’s not more than a year older than I am, but [8:00] she was already working on the Hill and was working for NPR [National Public Radio]. She was not yet working for ABC, and, of course, with her family being so established, she was very comfortable around everybody in the House, and she certainly made my life easier up here.
There were other women of stature in broadcasting fairly early. One was Carol Simpson, who went on to be a weekend anchor for ABC, so we did have some prominent women that were already in the business.
Johnson:
Was there any kind of support network provided for women employees of the House?
Tate:
No, and there was no place to go if you—the sexual harassment and all of that it was a totally different time; it was a totally different atmosphere. The House was a different place; the Senate was a different place; the way Members conducted themselves, the way they were treated—all of that was so very different at the time. No. There was no way—you took whatever treatment you got or you left. Fortunately for me, I had a boss [Bob Menaugh] that was both a gentleman and a mentor and wanted to be. He was only here for a year; he retired due to health issues, but in that year, you saw the pattern for how he expected his employees to work and how he expected people to be treated, and that was a model of decorum that I wanted to practice.
I was treated very well by the second superintendent [Mike Michaelson].5 He didn’t stay very long; he was only there for a few years. I had worked with him on the staff, and I had worked with the other people on the staff and was not treated poorly by the staff members at all, and not by any of the correspondents. There were a few lechers, but you could avoid them. I had one person tell me if I was nice to him, he could certainly make my life easier, but I knew he couldn’t, and I certainly wasn’t going to be any nicer to him. I knew he would also say that to anybody in a skirt. There was a Member of Congress who tried very hard to get me to go out to dinner with him even though he knew I was married, and that was not unusual. He also tried that with every woman he met. There was nothing special about me. And once you realized that if somebody was really that aggressive, they probably were that aggressive universally. I never had anybody make it a point to harass me, individually, without it being something they did for everybody walking, so you sort of don’t take it personally when you do that. And being Southern, you have a great deal more patience with that sort of thing.
The atmosphere of the galleries and the professional atmosphere of an office has changed radically. At that time, there was a wonderful gentleman that I worked with in the office of the Architect [of the Capitol]. He was an old Southern gentleman, and he used the term “honey” when he would talk to you, and that was perfectly normal for me. He would give you a hug and that was perfectly normal. It was not offensive—it was not meant to be; it was just standard operating procedure. We had a young woman come in who was in very serious feminist mode, and she was very offended by it, and she wouldn’t deal with him. I explained to her that if she didn’t want to deal with him, then she wouldn’t get her job done. She had to do some technical work, and his people and he had to facilitate that, and if she didn’t have enough sense to understand that this man was not coming on to her in any way, shape, or form, she should get her head [12:00] straight. It was not him, it was her. He was 30 years older than she was. He was from an era when that was perfectly acceptable and normal. You have to take that into consideration—you did then—because that was a big transition stage.
Now, it’s very difficult even to feel comfortable doing any more than shaking someone’s hand. I mean, giving somebody a hug is something you don’t do. Then, that was just common operating procedure, and everybody was much more flirty, much more casual because there weren’t many women, period. You were treated like a woman, and you were treated, not sexually, necessarily, but you were treated differently. And it wasn’t necessarily a negative; it wasn’t necessarily a positive. You just had to understand what the boundaries were. I did have one Senator chase me around a desk—that made me uncomfortable. Had it been a different time, I would have reported it because it was an inappropriate event, but that did not happen regularly with me. I am not really sure why. I think maybe the fact that we were in the press gallery, the radio-TV gallery, you are more visible and they don’t particularly want to call attention.
Johnson:
Did you form any strong bonds with other women because there were so few of you and you had a chance to, at least informally, talk to them about some of the things that were happening?
Tate:
Yes. Tina Gulland, who is now with Washington Post Radio, is still a friend. We were puppies when we were first here. We were both in our 20s, and we were both named Tina, and we were both blond. She is still a friend. I just did a shower for her daughter, and her daughter’s wedding is in October. We are still close friends and have kept in touch, even though she has been off the Hill for years now. Cokie, I continue to—I don’t see her often; she is much more famous and has gone on to do other things—but I feel very comfortable calling her on any sort of event if I need anything.
Johnson:
Some women staffers that we’ve talked to, that we interviewed, have referenced the inadequate accommodations for women during the period, such as having to walk a very long way to access a bathroom.
Tate:
Well, that’s true, and in the Capitol, that was especially true. In fact, we renovated the gallery in 1988, and that’s the first time—we did have a men’s and women’s bathroom—but that was the first time we had a women’s bathroom that accommodated more than one person. We have a very small office, a very physically small office, but in the renovation, I made sure that we accommodated more women. It’s interesting that, now, you probably have more women working out of there than men.
Johnson:
Did you find that you faced obstacles in your job? You said you had a supportive superintendent, but because of your gender, did you feel that there were certain things that you weren’t assigned, certain tasks, for example?
Tate:
No. Our office was too small. You really couldn’t not get assigned to things. The other thing we were doing—and this was not in the ’70s but in the ’80s—I began working the conventions…I did start working the conventions in ’76, but we also credentialed all of the independent broadcasters for the conventions, and there are about 5,000 people, and we handle all of their logistics arrangements and all that. You would go into meetings and you would be the only—there would be me and Jane Maxwell, [who was] with CNN, and 50 white guys. That was [16:00] normal. The technical meetings were very normal, to be mostly male. You would probably have maybe five percent women. But because I got a position fairly early, in Washington, people do pay attention to your job as much as they do your gender. So, once I got to be the director, and even the deputy director, that gave me a weight and a presence that was somewhat of a protection. I think most of the people that have a harder time are the younger women with less authority. People don’t tend to give you a problem if you have a position. They have got something they need from you. You have to deliver something professionally, and if you are in that position, you’re not as likely to have a problem. I never had a problem working with the people in the conventions, Democrats or Republicans. They always treated me as an equal. I guess because they did, I presumed myself to be, and if you present yourself that way, most of the time, you are perceived that way.
There was a director on the Senate side who had worked ahead of me on the House staff, and he actually did try to sabotage me. That would be an occasion when I did learn, and part of it was because I was a woman. Part of it was because he had been on staff 20 years before he got promoted, and I had been on staff six years before I got moved to deputy. And only a few years longer than that and I got to be director, and when I got to be director, at that time I was the only woman director. I went to him because we were going into an event I knew that I was not quite ready, professionally, to take on the job, but I also knew that I couldn’t turn it down because it wouldn’t be offered again. If they brought in somebody over me, there would not be an opportunity in the future, so I had to go ahead and step up. And I wasn’t prepared. I had not done enough on my own to feel comfortable that I knew what I was doing. So, I went to him and explained that I would need all of his help. I was very excited about this job and wanted to do my best, and I would appreciate any assistance he could give me, and I was willing to learn anything that he wanted to teach me. There was a lying in state of the Unknown Soldier, and we were going into a meeting with the Military District of Washington people, and I asked him if he had any folders or any files or anything that could help me with this—we had one lying-in-state in ’72, but I didn’t remember much about it, and we didn’t have very good files on it.6 He said, “Oh no,” he just wasn’t very aware of anything; he didn’t know anything about the meeting. When we went into the meeting, I discovered that he knew the gentleman who was in charge. He knew the operations. He knew the expectations. He knew the agenda. And none of that had he bothered to tell me. So, it was a lesson learned, but you only have to learn it once. Once you understand that you can’t expect someone else to help you or you know where you can’t expect to get help, then you have to be more prepared than anybody else in a meeting, and you learn it, and you go on. That was probably the most brutal lesson I learned, but I learned it early, and it served me well.
A lot of times, what you do professionally, you learn what not to do from seeing an example of what doesn’t work. I think I was a good supervisor because I observed [20:00] supervisors I thought that did not get the best out of their staff. When you would see that, it’s easier to say, “Okay, that’s not the way I want my office to run.” And you can learn from people doing a bad example as much as you can learn from people doing a good example.
Johnson:
The Congressional Directory listed two other women who also were working in the gallery during the 1970s. What were their positions?
Tate:
What were their names? Remind me.
Johnson:
Eloise Poretz and Helen Starr.7
Tate:
Both of them were on our staff, and both of them were hired by, I believe, Mike Michaelson.
Johnson:
Was that unusual to have so many women working on a staff that was so small?
Tate:
No. Mike was very open to having women. That was not a problem with him, as it wasn’t with Mr. Menaugh. Helen wasn’t there very long. Eloise was there a good while. In fact, I just talked to her. So, she left for her own reasons, as did Helen. Helen left to go to law school. So, neither one left because of any uncomfortable working situation, and both are still in the area.
Johnson:
I would like to back up a little bit to discuss some of the day-to-day procedures in the gallery. Can you describe the radio-TV gallery during your first few years—the staff, the physical space allotted, and some of your responsibilities?
Tate:
Well, the physical space hasn’t changed very much. It’s still a very small suite of offices on the third floor of the Capitol. We renovated in 1988, and the mezzanine area accommodates a different arrangement, but it’s always been kind of on top of each other. When we were first there in the ’70s, before we renovated, there wasn’t even an individual desk for each person. There were only four people on the staff at the time and there was a space for—and I have a picture of this, but I didn’t bring it; I can do that if you’d like a picture of the original gallery. In fact, I’ve got two, both of them with me looking really young. The only unique space was the director’s—superintendent space at that time—and that had a small area, closed off with glass. Then there were desks, but it was musical desks. If anybody left, you got up; there were three desks and four people, so you would just have to find a place to sit. {laughter} We didn’t really have the kind of file-keeping or record-keeping that we do now. Now, you document everything, but you didn’t then, and I don’t know why we never thought there would be any long-term to this because Congress was still going on.
Everything was done in longhand. This was all pre-computer. So anything you did, you did on paper. We didn’t start using computers, really, until the ’90s, and that changed things a great deal. I guess it was the ’80s because it was during the conventions. But during the ’70s, everything was handwritten, even the notes we did in the chamber. It sounds like it’s worse than it was. One of our duties was to keep a running log of the chamber, when the House is in session, and as long as the House was in session, you had someone sitting in the chamber the whole time writing notes. You still do, but now we do it on a computer, which they don’t allow in the Senate side. They still have to do theirs handwritten. So most of the day, you wouldn’t have everybody in the room at the same time. The other thing we would do would be—we would staff committee hearings, so a lot of the day, [24:00] you’d be out staffing a committee hearing. It wasn’t too often that everybody was physically in the space at the same time.
Johnson:
You mentioned the daily log and the notes that you took. What was the purpose, and who used these notes?
Tate:
The broadcasters used them, and they still do. Now, they are much more sophisticated than they were then. We would time-code them and put the Members of Congress that did meet—which did mean that you really had to recognize every Member of Congress, every time he spoke—and you would do whatever procedure took place, whatever vote took place, and voting was different then. You had tally votes, and you had different methods of voting—teller votes, not tally votes—teller votes and you would have to indicate what the vote was.8 You would do some debate, but you didn’t try to do verbatim. You tried to listen for things that would be—now, we listen for sound bites; then, you didn’t have sound recorded so we weren’t listening for sound bites—you were listening for substance. Now, you are actually listening for sound—somebody saying that one little thing that’s going to make air. We didn’t publish the notes then, and we don’t publish them now, but they are internal for broadcasters to use, both to get people who have spoken on an issue to find out the exact vote, to find out what procedure was done, to find out where they are in debate; and now, since 1979, when we got the audio and video in the chamber, to actually get quotes and to get video because they all record it from the House broadcast system now.
Johnson:
What are a few other examples of the daily activities that you would do in the gallery?
Tate:
We handled press conferences. We handled committee hearings. That’s a big part of our job, is the committee hearings we would staff. What we would do is work with the committee people to set aside enough room for the press. There is always a section for the press, and what we’ve done over the years—and it started really in the early ’80s—was to put in a fiberoptic system throughout the chamber, and the House put in the cameras for broadcast for the House Floor in ’79.9 But, we had prewired the chamber for Joint Meetings and Joint Sessions for the networks, even before that.10 We were doing broadcasting, I think—I have got pictures on our walls of what dates the first broadcasts were, but we actually wired the chamber in the ’80s, and we began working with a technical group of journalists—it was called the Technical Advisory Subcommittee of the Executive Committee—to wire all of the committee rooms so that they could be carried live. That has taken—we just finished Ways and Means. We are working on Ag [Agriculture] and Homeland Security, and then we’ll have almost all major committees hearing rooms wired so that they can go in and cover them live anytime. This is all the first-floor Rayburn rooms, all the major committees in Longworth, along with the major committees in Cannon. That’s taken 20 years to do, 25.
Johnson:
If you had to describe a typical day in the gallery, when you first started to work, how would you do that?
Tate:
Well, the pace was much slower because everything was film, and you said you were going to talk about technology later, but technology really has driven changes, both in politics and in television. If it was film, and you only had three competing networks and PBS, you only had four groups that were competing for television.
[28:00] There was a lot more radio; there were independent groups that covered from time to time. There were some foreign groups, but not many. But anything that was going to make air that night would make a specific newscast at 6:00 or 6:30 or 7:00, one of those times, so it had to be shot and sent to where it was going. If it was going to be…Cox Broadcasting had a station in California. For that station, any story that had to go had to be on the plane by 11 in the morning in order for it to get processed by that station that night on the West Coast, to be shown at 6:00. So, your timeframe for when something could make a story was much earlier in the day. Even for radio, it was somewhat earlier. You had fewer outlets, and none of them carried very much live. The only committee hearings that were live…there were some hearings in the ’70s with the crime hearings over in the Cannon Caucus Room.11 That was a big deal for them to bring in all the equipment to do wiring because that room wasn’t wired.
We did the Nixon Judiciary Committee hearings, and PBS had to build what looked like a small control room outside the window in order to have that go live, with a production truck [on the street] underneath. So those were very, very elaborate hearings to do, and the only thing that was traditionally live on a regular basis were the State of the Unions, and even that was a two-day setup because of the equipment that had to come in for it and the trucks.12 You would set aside committee seats. You would get witness lists. You would get committee testimony. You would stay around to be sure that if anything was shot, they got the shots they needed. We didn’t have a lot of pool coverage at the time, so most of it was independent cameras coming in and setting up. Then, you’d be in the chamber during the whole time the House was in session. We stayed until special orders were over. We don’t do that anymore because nobody carries that. It’s a valuable part of the House, but it is not a part that television carries. That was something we would always do. So your nights could be very late because they could go late on special orders, even after legislative business was over. We worked on Saturdays; we worked a half-day on Saturdays. We would only have one person in on the day, but every Saturday, somebody was in for a half a day. So, the pacing was much slower, with a more concentrated group of people that you knew needed to get access.
What you did have then, that you have not had for a long time, now, is both a producer and a reporter from the major networks. You have a producer and a reporter on the Hill, but not in both the House and the Senate gallery. Then, you had them both in the House and Senate gallery. There was a bit of a hierarchy in terms of how a person made their career in the networks. They would start off being a House correspondent, then they would be a Senate correspondent, then they would be a White House correspondent, and if they got really lucky, they would be an anchor. So we knew a lot of the people who got to be in those positions because they had come through the House. Brit Hume had worked in the House before he worked in the Senate, before he went to Fox. Charlie Gibson, who worked in the House—he didn’t work in the Senate—but he worked in the House before he went to the White House, before he went to GMA [32:00] [Good Morning America]. Cokie Roberts worked for NPR before she worked for ABC, before she went to network. So there was the hierarchy of people that went through that we really got to know very well. That’s not true so much anymore. Most of the people who work out of the House Gallery now are producers, and they may or may not do a little air work, but they are not regular correspondents. Only CNN has a regular correspondent based on our side.
Johnson:
So those were the typical activities. Do you remember any unusual days or unusual circumstances?
Tate:
In the ’70s?
Johnson:
Or into the ’80s too.
Tate:
Well, there were a lot of unusual ones. I can’t even remember the date of this. I think it was ’91, but I’m not sure. Not skipping that far ahead…One of our most unusual ones was the Million Man March.13 That was very interesting because I don’t know if you know that much about the Million Man March, but when it happened, nobody knew what it was really going to be and neither the House nor Senate were taking very much credit for it and were not having a visible presence. But you had no [male] Senators who were black at the time, and you had black House Members that did not really want to be publically involved, but some of their staffs were, or out of the public, they were involved. So we knew that it was going to be covered; we knew it had the potential for either being very big and bad or very big and good, but it had the potential for being very big. There was so much interest generated by it that you knew it was going to get a lot of television coverage, and nobody would participate in any kind of meeting to find out how to set it up. Logistics is what we do, and logistics are neutral. {laughter} We don’t care whether it’s a good thing or bad thing, we cover it and we try to get people in place so that they can cover it. We are not responsible for the story. We went into a meeting with a group that were anti-white, anti-government, and anti-female. Here I am, “Hello, I am here to help you.” We had to do a lot of very careful negotiations to get coverage arrangements made with a group that was very reluctant and needed our help but did not want to accept our help. We worked with a couple of excellent House staffers who were behind the scenes making sure that we got what information we needed, and that’s where we got most of it. We really were the only office that had any information at all. The guidelines that the [Louis] Farrakhan people put out were ones we had written that got the name of our office just taken off in the arrangements and put on their Web site release because somebody had to do it. You have to tell people when to show up and what credential to use and what entrance to come through. It doesn’t matter whether it’s going to be good or bad, and it turned out to be an amazing event with an incredible amount of participation and an incredible story. I felt very good that we had forced ourselves in on it in order to make sure that it was handled properly. I thought we did a very good job.
Johnson:
You mentioned Bob Menaugh a few times, and you referenced Mike Michaelson, but could you talk a little bit more about their leadership and how they directed the gallery?
Tate:
Well, Mr. Menaugh had been the original superintendent. The gallery was [36:00] established in 1939, and he had been the original director. There have only been, now, four.14 I was the third. He had a wonderful relationship with Members of Congress directly, and this is another change. Directors, then, dealt directly with chairmen of committees, as well as not only the press secretaries for the committees, but the chief of staffs for the committees because it was a much smaller staff apparatus, and there was much less media coverage. Because he had that comfortable relationship with Members, which I couldn’t have at that time because (1) I was female, and (2) I was in my 20s—but you had somebody who had grown up in the House and had been in the House all that time and was very comfortable working with Members, so that was just a very different era.
When Mike came in as director, he changed a lot of things, and he was much more interested in really getting a professional television approach and taught me a lot about how to think about what these people were going to want. He would take me along to meetings, he was a good mentor in that regard, to learn from him what people expected and what they wanted. I did learn a lot about what was going to be the role I would do, and then I took it from there. I think it changed after he left because it changed radically with the onset of satellite trucks, and local television covering like national television did. So you didn’t just think about the national groups; you also had to think about the local groups, and you had to think about what they would do on a day-to-day basis. Both Bob Menaugh’s demeanor, character, and style and Mike’s true interest in the technology and the newsworthiness of things were very good examples for me and very good help to getting me to do my job.
Johnson:
When you first started your job in the early ’70s, there were less than 20 women Members. Did you feel a special connection with them because there weren’t many women House employees, as well?
Tate:
Yes. I didn’t feel a special connection with them because they were all much older. Most of them were—I don’t remember all of them, but I remember Shirley Chisholm was not a widow—but most of them were widows of Members who had served, as opposed to being elected on their own.15 They didn’t start having Members elected on their own very regularly until into the ’80s and really into the ’90s. So I did not know any of the female Members well. On Judiciary, what was her name?
Johnson:
Barbara Jordan?16
Tate:
No. The woman from New York. She was one of the younger women. But there were a few, and of course Barbara Jordan was just astonishing.
Johnson:
Liz Holtzman was on Judiciary.17
Tate:
Yes, Liz Holtzman. Barbara Jordan was the role model that every human being who wants to be a Member of Congress should follow because of her dignity and how splendid her speech was and what a role model she was in that respect. So [40:00] they were role models, but not because I knew them personally or had any direct connection with them personally.
Chairmen were much more God-like {laughter} than they are now. I can remember walking with Mike Michaelson, and he was trying to persuade Chairman Jack Brooks from Texas to do something, and the chairman was listening to him and smoking a cigar, and I had a tablet in my hand, and he didn’t have a place to drop his ashes so he just flipped them on my tablet because it was the closest, most convenient place. So, it certainly gave you a position. You knew what your place was in terms of what chairmen were doing.
You asked me about really unusual things that happened in the ’70s. One of the things was with Chairman Hays, who had gotten into trouble because of a woman named Elizabeth Ray whom he was paying not for her secretarial services but for her other services.18 He was being hounded by the press and eventually did leave Congress. There was a press conference arranged that he came into—I was working it—and he was brought in from the back, came to the podium, made his statement, and left. The press all wanted to ask questions, and he wouldn’t take questions. We would not do a press conference like that now. One, a Member wouldn’t expect it; but two, it wouldn’t be granted. The press wouldn’t allow it. At that point, the press was much more controlled, even though they were very upset with the way it was run. It was something we did, based on what the Member wanted. Now, you wouldn’t do that. Your role is much more to take care of what the press needs because your perception of what you are supposed to be doing is if the press gets the story right, and you’ve helped them do that, then you’ve helped the American people understand their government. So to stand up to a Member of Congress because they are making a judgment that is not transparent for information purposes, it’s something you have to do now. There is too much media to be able to contain something, like you could contain it then, like a Member could control it then.
Johnson:
That made me think of an earlier interview with Ben West, the former superintendent of the House Press Gallery.19 He commented that he often felt like he was in the position of serving two masters. Is that something that you felt, too?
Tate:
Yes. It’s essential to have both the trust and the assistance of not only the Member, but the chief of staff and whoever is handling the press because you can’t operate in somebody’s room or in somebody’s space without having that kind of trust, and you need the trust of the leadership of the House because there are things you need to do at a leadership level. It’s a mutual trust, and it’s a mutual goal. There are times when Congressmen get themselves in trouble, and it’s not the role of the press, and it’s certainly not the role of the galleries to keep them out of trouble. If they land in trouble, it’s up to you to try to assist them in the coverage that’s going to happen. You are not trying to make the coverage happen; you are just trying to be sure that it happens in as dignified a way as you can get it to happen.
Even though this is jumping forward, [Gary] Condit was probably one of the bigger examples of how a Member of Congress became a focal point that he did [44:00] not want—there were lots of others, certainly Hays, but this is the difference. This is a good difference between what happened with Hays in the ’70s and with Condit in 2001. The difference there was so incredibly visible because by that time, you had all three cable networks going gavel to gavel with any kind of story, and this story had sex, and it had money, and it had a Member, and it had a young girl; I mean, every part of it was titillating. So it was not what you would do to maybe better the country, but it was going to get a lot of coverage. We sat down with Condit’s office; we sat down with the Sergeant at Arms office and discussed ground rules for how we could do this because it was going to happen. It could be messy and unpleasant and lots of angry phone calls back and forth, or we could set some parameters and be sure that the pictures people were going to need were going to happen. That’s what we ended up doing. That story went on until September 11 [2001]. That was the story of that summer; the story that entire summer was nothing but Condit.
There have been other scandal stories that were much more controlled when television wasn’t as obvious. Under Speaker [Thomas] Foley, you had the bank scandal.20 One of the things that we couldn’t photograph was the bank—that was one of the areas that you were not allowed to take pictures of, and I persuaded them to let us take a picture, not inside the bank, not with the employees, but just of the bank door. Even that they regretted because they said you wouldn’t have told the story without the picture. Well, yeah, they would have. It was one of those things where the story was spun, and it was being fed and it wasn’t being fed by House Gallery employees—it was being fed by Republicans who wanted to get that story out, and they weren’t going to give up on getting that story. So you are going to get the story, and if it’s a Page scandal—and we’ve had several of those since I’ve been here. The reason the kids wear the little outfits they wear, the reason they are the age they are because of previous page scandals, some with girls, some with boys, so there is not really much new—it’s just different ways of looking at it and different responses to it. People do respond differently, now, to things because there is so much more instant response. It was how long the [House] bank scandal went on because Members didn’t get it, how important that was to the trust of the American people, and it eventually caused…and it was an element in the political change of Congress, not the only thing, but an element in it.
Johnson:
When a scandal like the House Bank or some of the others that you mentioned occurred, did you feel any pressure in the gallery from the leadership to act a certain way?
Tate:
Sure. We hear about it about as soon as it happens. One thing lovely about journalists is that they do talk, and if they know something’s coming, and they know they are going to have it, unless it’s their exclusive, once it gets past being the first time you hear it, you know where it’s going, and you know that this is going to be a big deal. Our reporters would let us know this is huge; this is something we are going to get a lot of pressure doing. You go to the leadership, [48:00] and you go to the authorities, and, in this case, it’s usually the Sergeant at Arms is the other office we have to work with; we’ve always had very, very good relations on our side, which has not happened on the Senate side. We have had very close relations with all of the Sergeants at Arms that I ever worked with. If they couldn’t do what I wanted them to do, they always understood what we were asking for and that it was a legitimate request, whether we got it or not. That was something really that’s been a valuable connecting link, is how well we worked with the House Sergeant at Arms, throughout the years. We made sure that we kept that kind of personal contact and trust because the police are not there to keep the press from the Members. They don’t think it’s their role, I don’t think it’s their role, and if you allow them to think it’s their role, you’re not serving the American people. So you have to keep reminding them, that’s not what you are here for. The press is not going to hurt these people. They may hurt them politically, but they are not going to hurt them physically. As long as they are not going to hurt them physically, you don’t need to keep them away from us. So we need to work out specific arrangements that make this work. There are a lot of rules that various Sergeants at Arms would let us bend one way or another to make it easier to cover because they didn’t want the police involved in the coverage of the story. They didn’t want to be accused of covering up anything, and they were willing to work with us, not to expose a Member, but to be sure that the Member was treated fairly and that coverage was allowed.
Johnson:
Did you have instances where the Speaker would call you in directly and ask you to phrase things a certain way?
Tate:
No. I have had Speakers’ staff do that, but I have not had Speakers do that.
Johnson:
Did you find that you could work independently, then, for the most part, that you could listen to the opinions of the leadership but then decide if you think this is the best way to pursue a story, then this is what you would do?
Tate:
Well, I didn’t pursue the stories. It was a matter of trying to—as working for two masters—we also were the buffer. There were times when you could not get what the press wanted, and in that case, you were the person they could yell at from both directions. You were the person who could go in and do the conversations so that it kept leadership and/or Sergeant at Arms folks from having to talk directly to the press and the press having to talk directly to them. When people have to be confrontational because they have to do their position, you get hostility that can be long-lasting. If you’ve got somebody who can be the go-between, you can keep it softer. That’s another thing about being a woman that has actually served me well. You can be a bit softer. You can be perceived as less threatening, and you can be every bit as firm, every bit as dogmatic or insistent, but you can do it in a way that is not as threatening as sometimes a male tends to have to do the testosterone thing. You can just feel it in the room when you have got one guy who thinks that he has to prove his point, just his point, not get the result, but his point. We always go into these negotiations with this is where we need to get and we’ll get there any way we can, but it isn’t whether it’s my point or your point. [52:00] You want to educate everybody into coming to your side, and if you can’t, then you need to change your side to get there. You need to get the result, and the result is what is more important than whether it's your point or his point. Women tend to be a little better at that.
Johnson:
So, in addition to being a buffer, in some cases, you are a facilitator.
Tate:
Entirely, totally. We had one staffer who used to say, “We don’t do anything, we facilitate everything.” That’s really what we do, is make it easier for people.
Johnson:
You mentioned the Sergeant at Arms, and when I was looking through some old editions of the Congressional Directories, it listed your office and the other House press galleries under the Office of the Doorkeeper.
Tate:
Yes.
Johnson:
Did your office fall under their jurisdiction?
Tate:
In fact, the Doorkeeper is, of course, now the CAO, for our purposes, but the Doorkeeper’s Office was a much different office than the CAO’s office is.21 The Doorkeeper was in charge of everything that went around the chamber, everything connected to the chamber, and anything connected with Members. So things like Joint Meetings, Joint Sessions—and then they had a lot of ceremonial sessions—anything in the Rotunda or Statuary Hall would have some component of Doorkeeper involvement, and some of the Clerk as well, but more the Doorkeeper than anything else.22 When the Republicans took over, they were trying to decide where to put us, whether to put us under the Clerk because we have a legislative function, or under the Sergeant at Arms, because we work with them so directly with logistics, or under the new CAO. I think when they decided to put the recording studio with the broadcast under the CAO, then they decided to put the press galleries under the CAO, and I believe that to be how it happened. I don’t know that for a fact because I wasn’t in on any of the meetings. But the Doorkeeper—before that was a patronage job and a patronage position, and most of the doormen were patronage. We were the only office that was not, so there would be pressure from them to either appoint or not appoint or have interns or whatever. We would get pressure from them.
That was one of the reasons that Cokie Roberts was such an advantage to us because she knew everybody, and she was on my board several times and was on my board when I was elected. There were two occasions where we had run-ins about hiring, where the Speaker’s Office withheld the hire that we wanted for various reasons, one under a Republican Speaker and one under a Democratic Speaker. In both cases, we ran interference, with our executive committee going directly to the Speaker’s staff, and in both cases, the event was reversed. So, we were able to continue hiring as we have hired in the past. That is not true on the Senate side. The Senate side, they have always been under the Sergeant at Arms, and they do not have the rules that we do that sets the gallery under the Speaker for authority and CAO, but then the Doorkeeper for payroll purposes. So they didn’t have that division, and they didn’t have that kind of blessing that the House has always given the galleries. It’s a very important part of our history and our operation. It gives us much more independence, and since nobody’s directly responsible for us, as long as we don’t embarrass them, it’s pretty much okay with us.
Johnson:
So even though you were under their jurisdiction technically, the Doorkeeper’s [56:00] Office, there wasn’t a lot of interaction that you had.
Tate:
There was a lot of interaction because they were our payroll masters. Any kind of raises—when at one point, I wanted to restructure our office, and our Doorkeeper then was Jim Molloy, he said he would not go in for raises for our office, but he wouldn’t object if I did.23 He would let me make the presentation, and if I did the paperwork—I can’t actually remember if I made the presentation or not; I know I went to the meeting. I think he actually put it out, but if I worked it, he wouldn’t oppose it, but he wouldn’t put it up. [Leon] Panetta, I think, was on the Legislative Approps at the time, and that’s where you had to take it.24 We took what we wanted to the Legislative Approps staff and discussed how we wanted it to work, and they voted on it to change our structure, and he didn’t oppose it. Raises were things that he had to control. Access to the floor for Joint Meetings and Joint Sessions, he had to control. So, there was a lot of interaction, and we didn’t always agree, but we were not ever unpleasant. “Fishbait” Miller was the Doorkeeper when I first came, and I had less to do with him and more to do with the Speaker’s staff at that point because the Speaker’s staff was so small and so directly in charge of everything.25 You went to one person, and he took care of it.
The way we got the renovation in 1988—I went to John Mack, who was Speaker [James] Wright’s chief of staff, and said—I took him over to see the Senate Gallery, which had just been renovated, and it’s so beautiful and so grand and took him back to see our office, and I said, “This is not what we need, we need something else.” He said, “Okay,” and he told Appropriations to do it. That was how it happened. That was the way things happened then. If the right people said the right thing, and that was another case of Wright—the approval came with John Mack carrying the water for it, and it was like a half million dollars for the renovations at that time. By the time the gallery was opened and the renovation was completed, Wright had gotten into so much trouble that he was no longer Speaker. Wright had written a handwritten note that said, “I hope you invite me to your new gallery,” and he never came because by the time it was opened, he was so radioactive, it was too small to have a press conference with him up there. But, that happens. Keeping very close, direct channels to the Speaker’s Office has always been incredibly important for our staff, and we’ve always done that. The cooperation has been constant, if not complete. There were times when there were things that we would have objections to, but I have never had a Speaker’s chief of staff that would not work with us, and that we’ve been blessed with. There’s been a lot more difficulty, I think, on the Senate side with that kind of “Oh, you’re not important to us.”
Johnson:
Was your office affected with the change over from the Doorkeeper’s Office to the…
Tate:
Absolutely, completely. All of the House offices that were not Members’ offices, of course, all of the committee staffs, the ratios changed, so the ratio for staffing changed. All the Members’ offices were in play in terms of how many people they [60:00] could have, but all of the offices that were support staff were asked to turn in resignations. And our galleries, and I think—I don’t know if Ben West mentioned this or not—but I think all the press galleries did it, but I know our office did not. Bill Headline was the bureau chief of CNN at the time, and he was my chairman for the Executive Committee of Correspondents.26 I told him what was going on and said this would be a precedent, and he said, “Well, we don’t want you all to turn in your resignation,” and I said, “We don’t want to turn in our resignations.” He said, “We want the people we got. We hired them and we want them, and that’s in the rules of the House.” Now, they can change the rules of the House, but they haven’t. So I said, “Okay, let’s go see Tony Blankley,” and we did. Tony Blankley, at that time, was the press secretary to [Newt] Gingrich. We went in and made the case and he said, “Okay.” They didn’t want to pick a fight with the press, that was not necessary. Tony has been up to our office a thousand times, and he knew what we did, although he never considered us nonpartisan. He always considered us bipartisan. He didn’t see us as Democratic appointees because we were not. We were not hired by the Doorkeeper, and if they insisted, there would have been a fight, and they were turning the place upside down. So this was a fight they didn’t need and certainly one they just didn’t want.
When [Nancy] Pelosi’s office took over, I continued to work with the Pelosi staff as well as [J. Dennis] Hastert’s staff on issues. Even before the election, I had informal conversations with the Pelosi staff just in case it happened. There would be things we’d need to talk about, as we had done with the Republicans, things that needed to be done, and I had worked with Tony on a lot of issues for opening day, what kind of coverage he wanted, what type of coverage had been allowed before. Our role there in some sort of major change like that is not to say what is going to happen and what isn’t going to happen, but to explain to a new office coming in what the precedents were, what areas had been used and why, and what areas hadn’t been used and why, and what areas were easy for coverage and what areas were not, and then let them make a decision. I don’t make any of the decisions, but you are sort of the background person, and there isn’t really another office that does that. Even when Hastert took over, that was fairly sudden, and we went in and talked to Hastert’s staff immediately and said, “This is what happens and this is how we do it, and if you want to do it differently, you can do it differently, but things like State of the Union, how that sets up and who comes for what meetings and who’s in charge of making what decisions, we’ll walk you through what the precedent has been, and if you want to change it, you can change it, but this is what has been the pattern.” We did that with any Speaker that came in, to make sure that they knew—most Speakers don’t want radical change that they don’t create. So they want to stay within precedent until they are ready to change the precedent. So that’s what we do is try to say this is what happened before.
I recall one other—you were talking about other people, people who gave you a lot of grief, men who made your life unpleasant. Many years ago, there was a director of the recording studio—which we have to work with on a very direct basis because we get their floor feed, and they do a lot of work that interconnects [64:00] with us—this was many, many years ago. This gentleman did not like television, and we have had other officers of the House that did not like television, and they would be more difficult, but in most cases, they were not duplicitous; he was duplicitous. He would say one thing to me and another thing to the leadership, and you would go into a meeting where you’d already had a conversation, you had already given him a heads-up, and then he would do a back fill and try to make a point without giving you any kind of up-front. Another lesson to learn. You can deal with people who are not duplicitous, but if they are, then you have to work around them, and he happened to be a man. I think part of it was a male-female thing, but it was probably more that he hated television, outside of his own television realm. He wanted to keep control of anything that was television. He didn’t want the networks to come in for the State of the Union. Well, that wasn’t going to happen. That was not really a fight I needed to worry about because no Speaker is going to challenge the networks on coverage of the State of the Union unless there is some incredible reason to do it. Nobody is going to do that just because a staffer is annoyed that somebody is putting cameras in the room. That is another example that was as much professional as personal animosity that was a difficult person to work for. Most of the people I’ve worked with, I have been very fortunate. I have had genuinely cooperative experiences with almost all the officers of the House. He was not an officer of the House, but that was the one exception of somebody who could make my life difficult, and did, and did it on purpose.
Johnson:
We’re going to pause for a moment, if that is all right with you.

End of Part One – Beginning of Part Two

Johnson:
During the first part of your interview, you mentioned several times the renovation that took place in the gallery. Could you describe that in more detail?
Tate:
Well, we had space that was inadequate; the space we have now is still inadequate. We went to all the networks and said—once we had gotten permission to do the renovation, which, as I told you, we got from John Mack and Wright’s office. We really needed to come up with a plan that everybody could agree on because you got so many competing interests, so we got all the networks together and came up with a design that we thought would work with the Architect’s [of the Capitol] people and showed them what we were doing, and then, we did a survey—and there’s a folder, actually, on the renovation if I can find it in my files. This was pre-computer files. We had every organization apply for what type of space they wanted, whether it was a one-person booth, a two-person booth, or a three-person booth; and we came up with a list of criteria for what you would have to do to have a booth. To guarantee that you’d get a booth, you had to have a presence every day in the gallery when the House was in session. To have consideration for a two-person booth, you had to have two people there on a regular basis; for a three-person booth, the same thing. So, the criteria was set. Everybody had to be in on the agreement for the criteria, and then the booths were designed based on who put in for what and how many we could fit. Then, they were assigned on a lottery. So, it was all very collegial.
One of the things that came from that is that there was a producer for NBC—and NBC at the time did not have radio, and a lot of the reason the networks had three-person booths was because they had radio. He decided that he wasn’t happy with his own people, so they were in a position where everybody would agree to them having a three-person booth and he said, “Oh, we don’t need it.” And I said in front of everybody, “You can have one; everybody agrees that your network can have one, and you are the one that’s the spokesman for your network and you are telling me…” and I am saying this in front of everybody, “You are telling me that you, NBC, do not want a three-person booth?” He said, “Yes.” They have a two-person booth to this day because of it, and the booth is way too small, so they ended up picking up another booth they can use when they have a third person because they can’t physically work out of the booth they’ve got.
That was a long process of getting all of the networks and all of the booth people, the occupants of the booth, and convincing people that they really couldn’t meet the criteria, but doing it in a way that was obvious to their peers. If you keep the direct competitors equal in their resources and then let them knock out whether or not they can do better journalism or faster journalism or get more scoops, then everybody’s happy because then they are competing professionally. You don’t want to make the competition anything like whether or not they are given the same facilities. So we wanted everyone to agree on what facilities they had.
In the same way, when we did the impeachment hearings on [President William Jefferson] Clinton[4:00], you had to get everybody to agree on how you did distribution of materials. That was when we were only able to get CD things, you couldn’t just put something on the Web. We just weren’t quite there. So if you were doing distribution, you had to have systems in place that everybody could agree, “Okay, that’s my group of competitors. That’s my information. I’m in with that group, and I can agree that I am, and therefore, I will participate and stay fair.” Our goal is to be sure that everybody has the same access to both the logistics and the requests, and the space, and the facilities, and the information on an equal basis so they can go out and do their jobs.
Johnson:
Was this renovation driven by you and your staff realizing that the space was inadequate, and also the reporters; was it a joint effort?
Tate:
Yeah. Everybody knew it was inadequate. This was also driven by the fact that we needed to bring fiber into the gallery, so it was obvious that everybody needed to wire their booths, and you couldn’t really do that the way it was done. This was a time to bring everything into the booths.
Johnson:
This was still the same space that you had occupied before on the third floor, number 321?
Tate:
It is 321, 322, and 322A.
Johnson:
So you didn’t acquire any new space?
Tate:
Oh no, and the Senate did. The Senate got the Senate Document Room, I believe. But no, there was no more space to get. There is no space on the third floor, and it is incredibly important for the journalists to be close to the floor because they need to be close to Members.
You asked me earlier, and we can go back to the relation, but you asked me about role models. There were a couple of other women that were somewhat role models in different places. One was Lorraine [Miller] because she worked for Wright and she had been somebody of prominence and somebody you could talk to in the Speaker’s Office.27 The other was a woman named Robin Sproul, who was with ABC, who was the bureau chief for their radio and then was the acting bureau chief, and then—I don’t know if she was the first woman bureau chief in Washington or not of a major network, but whether or not she was, she has been the one longest serving, and she has been a mentor and somebody I could go to on professional questions and things.
Johnson:
You mentioned Cokie Roberts several times and it was in reference to the Committee of Radio and Television Correspondents. Can you provide more background on this organization?
Tate:
Yes. The Executive Committee of Correspondents is an elected board of journalists of seven people. They are elected every December, but it’s a split election, so that you have four elected one year and three elected another so that you always have a continuum. They serve for two years. The person with the most votes becomes the chairman, and the election is all of the accredited journalists—broadcast journalists—to the House and Senate radio and TV galleries’ vote, so they could have 3,000 votes; they rarely had more than 100. That board sets policy for the galleries, and it also handles accreditation. So if someone comes to petition for membership, they have to meet the criteria. The criteria is on our Web site. Those are their two biggest issues. They also hire, and that’s in the rules of the House; that’s also on our Web site.28 But the rules of the House allow the Executive Committee of Correspondents, in several areas, they are mentioned in the House Rules as an entity. Because of that, when there has [8:00] been a court challenge, the legal counsel for the House will go with me if I get subpoenaed and I was subpoenaed at one point. They dropped the subpoena before I had to go, but legal counsel talked to me about it.
There was another case, not too long ago, when a subpoena was going to be issued and was not, but in both cases, legal counsel will support me, or the Executive Committee, because they are mentioned as an entity in the House Rules, if they are doing that function. They wouldn’t do anything for NBC or a chairman who happens to be working for NBC, but they would support anything they did as the Executive Committee, in terms of credentials requests. They did that with the periodical gallery. They supported the periodical gallery when they were challenged by a group who wanted credentials and were turned down by their executive committee. So I serve that Executive Committee. It’s a board that generally—Cokie Roberts happened to be the chairman the year that Mike left to go to C-SPAN. My job interview was “Do you want this job?” And I said, “Yeah.” She said, “Okay,” and that was my job interview 25 years ago. So she’s been a longtime friend and a longtime supporter. She and Linda Wertheimer have been good friends over the years.
The NPR people, because they are up there all the time, have been one of the real staunch people. You have certain groups that have had a presence and that keep people there for a long, long time and those groups always try to have somebody on the board. The networks always try to run a few people and NPR always tries to have somebody on the board. It is important for us—I talk about having good relationships with the leadership, but if I’d gone to Tony Blankley and said, “I don’t want to resign and take a chance on you rehiring me,” he might have said, “Fine, thank you, I’ll see you later.” But if I had Bill Headline, who is the bureau chief of CNN sitting right beside me saying, “We don’t want her to resign,” that has a whole lot more clout. Those are the people we represent; those are the people we work for, and any power that we carry, it’s because of the people standing behind us. We never speak for them in terms of being a spokesman for the Executive Committee; they can speak for themselves. But, in terms of addressing issues for them or access for them, or something like that, if it’s not something they want to deal with directly, then it’s something we need to deal with.
There was a change of House Rules that the Executive Committee felt uncomfortable testifying about because one of the rules of the galleries is that you don’t petition Congress, and yet, they supported it, and they wanted it to happen. There was a rule that said that if you were subpoenaed by a committee, you could elect not to be photographed and recorded for television as a witness. That had been in the rules until the Republicans took over, was still there when the Republicans took over. The other rule that the Republicans changed without any pressure from us—that changed how we operate to some extent—is that they put in the rule that says if the committee hearing is open to the public, it is open to television coverage, and you cannot close it to television coverage. Before that, they could vote to close a committee hearing that was open to the public to television coverage. They would allow print, they would allow radio, but they wouldn’t allow television. Or they could vote not to. The Republicans changed that, with no pressure from the Executive Committee, but [Gerald] Solomon, the [12:00] Rules Committee chairman, wanted to change that rule because he wanted somebody to testify that didn’t want to testify, and he wanted it to be on television. So he brought it up in the Rules Committee. Our committee [Executive Committee] very much wanted it changed because it’s a very hard rule to deal with because you don’t know until that morning whether or not somebody is going to do it, so you’ve got it all set up and then you have to break it down, and do you break it down in time—and logistically, it’s a nightmare.
So I went with Barbara Cochran, who was the chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, and she made the pitch because she was not a working journalist at that time.29 She was representing journalists. She had been the bureau chief at CBS. She made the presentation on behalf of the journalists so that the Executive Committee was not lobbying Congress to change a rule because that’s something they are not supposed to do.
Johnson:
Seven people sit on the board, you mentioned. Is there any kind of set ratio as far as a certain amount have to be television journalists or radio…
Tate:
No. I don’t know if we have that on our Web site or not, but you might check the Web site to see if the criteria for the rules for election are on there. If they’re not, they might be on the Senate side. They just changed the rules so that they can serve two consecutive times. They put in a rule that—I can’t remember if they actually did it or not—where you couldn’t have two people from the same organization run, but that’s never been challenged. They have had people change jobs in the broadcast industry from one company to another, so they run as individuals, they do not run as members of a group. But, if NBC is running a candidate, NBC is going to get behind the candidate, but if the candidate changes and goes over to CNN, he stays on the board or she stays on the board. So you run with the support of your group, but you don’t necessarily have to stay with that group, as long as you stay in journalism. If you go out of the field, then you no longer—if you can still be credentialed, you can stay on the board.
Johnson:
Were there other memorable journalists that were on the committee besides Cokie Roberts?
Tate:
Yes, oh, absolutely. Charlie Gibson was on the board when we hired Olga [Ramirez Kornacki], who is now the director. Joe McCaffrey was an old-time WTOP chairman. Dave McConnell has been on the board and has been chairman. He is WTOP. The list of former chairmen are on our Web site, and they are some of the most distinguished journalists. Even Eric Sevareid was a chairman; that was before me. Joe Johns. A lot of correspondents who are or have been on air. Brian Wilson has been chairman twice. Phil Jones was chairman twice. A lot of very prominent journalists have been chairman. Bill Headline, as I mentioned, CNN bureau chief—he’s our only bureau chief that’s ever been chairman. If you go through it, you will see. Carol Simpson was. Ann Compton was. It’s been a very distinguished group.
We have only had one non-network chairman that jumps to mind. Brian [Wilson], the first time, was WTTG, but he was supported by Fox. But there was [16:00] a woman in the ’80s named Carolyn Gorman that the independents decided they wanted to support somebody, and if all the independents got behind somebody, then they can elect someone. There have been several C-SPAN chairmen. Annie Tin, Brian Lockman—there have been several of them.
Johnson:
What privileges are associated with accreditation and the gallery cards that are given to broadcasters?
Tate:
Twenty-four hour access. They have the same access to the building that staff does and more so, in some areas, because some areas they can go that staff can’t go.
Johnson:
For example? Where would that be?
Tate:
Well, if there is a press setup, the staff can’t go into the press setup. There are places where they have additional credentials to go that staff can’t go, but primarily, it’s access. The big challenge to that is it’s also access to documents, but more than anything it’s access to the Capitol. The Capitol is so hard to get in to, now, that if you don’t have proper accreditation, you get stopped three times getting to the door. That is one of the things that is just key. Over the years, the accreditation challenges that we’ve gotten from Members have been, “Well, can’t you take their card?” Well, no, they don’t take their card. Only the Executive Committee can take their card, and the Executive Committee has never taken a card from anybody that I know of. They have suspended or they have talked to people who have used them incorrectly.
There is one occasion where a woman gave her ID to her husband, and they revoked that because she was using it fraudulently at that point. That’s about the only reason they would, and so when an unflattering story or a picture somebody doesn’t want comes out, we start getting the calls, “Can’t you control this?” “Can’t you take their card?” “No, we don’t take their card.” You have to do something that is illegal or fundamentally improper in the world of journalism, and exposing a Member or taking a picture that’s unflattering or doing a story that they don’t like or even a breach of an agreement is not something you would take someone’s access to do their job.
Johnson:
Do journalists have to reapply for accreditation…
Tate:
Yes, every year.
Johnson:
You talked about the Senate Radio-TV Gallery…
Tate:
They do the accreditation. They have always handled the accreditation on one side because there is no reason for people to go to both sides, and the place you have to get your picture done is on the Senate side, so they have always been the accrediting office; in terms of the paperwork, they are the administrative office that does that. We do the conventions, we do the accreditations for the conventions; they do the accreditation for the day-to-day office.
Johnson:
What kind of working relationship did you have with the Senate Gallery? Did you work with them closely on a daily basis?
Tate:
Oh, yes. They are essentially a mirror image of us, and what we try to avoid doing is having both of us in charge of anything because that’s very confusing for people, since what we do is logistics and information. You want it primarily coming out of one office. So, obviously State of the Union has to be our side because it’s on our side. The inaugural is handled by Senate Rules Committee, so it’s on the Senate side. More because we got interested in it and because Mike loved doing them, we did the conventions. Lying in states are the closest thing to a dual thing, and so what we’ve worked out with lying in states is our office handled Rosa Parks [20:00] and the officers because, in both cases, they were driven by our Speaker.30 The Reagan funeral and the [Gerald] Ford funeral—the Reagan funeral, it was obvious that our Speaker wanted to be more involved than we originally thought. In fact, Ted Van der Meid, with the Speaker’s Office, wanted our staff involved more than we had initially were expecting to be, so a lot of the plans really had started out on the Senate. And the Senate was supposed to handle that because that was a convention year, and we didn’t know it was going to be a convention year, but we knew it was around that time, so we were working on conventions, and they were supposed to be doing it. But the Senate didn’t give him the level of support, and it was the first one [convention] we had in such a long time that—and our leadership, if you remember, was in Europe—so by the time the leadership got back, some time had already passed, and they wanted us more involved than we were, just because they wanted to have eyes and ears who had been onsite. When the Ford planning began, we stepped forward and said with the Speaker’s Office, we would like to do that. Ford was a House Member. We know, as House Members, the House would be more involved. His primary period was here, and we want to take that and be the lead office on that, and they said fine.
Now, when there are gold medal ceremonies or the Holocaust ceremony or other types of ceremonies that take place in the Rotunda, then we trade off. We generally do the Christmas tree lighting because the Speaker lights the Christmas tree. So, it’s where the Speaker is more the prominent person or whether it is a Senate-driven event, there might be an obvious reason for us to take it.
When we did Federal Hall—that was one that I had to beg to be involved in because that was working, and the Speaker’s Office was doing it, and leadership was working on it, and I couldn’t get anybody to give me any information for us.31 I kept saying, “You’re going to want television, you’re going to want television, and we do television, and if you will let us come to the meetings, we’ll help.” Then, they finally got us involved in the meetings. So we were the primary office for that. If you see a need, and you step forward, and you can be helpful, people will generally welcome you in to take care of things. So that’s why we were more involved in that than the Senate was because we stepped forward to be involved in it.
Johnson:
So, typically, you’ve had a good relationship, not a rivalry, with the Senate side.
Tate:
No, it has not been a rivalry, with the exception of when I was first director and [name redacted] was director—that was not a rivalry as much as a—I got to be more prepared than anybody going into a meeting with him because I just had to be. Fortunately, he wasn’t there all that long. Larry Janezich was the director for most of the time that I was the director, and he was just wonderful to work with.32 He is very, very smart and had enough problems of his own where he wasn’t a problem for me in any way, shape, or form.
The other directors of the other galleries over there, one of them—the gallery we work with most over there is the press photographer’s gallery because they don’t have a House Gallery—so we are very fortunate that we’ve had very good relations with them. The guy who is now the director on that side worked for me at one point, and he’s just a terrific guy and very professional and has the same approach to things that we do. So it’s, “Let’s get the job done, and let’s do it right, and let’s work together.” That’s been a good relationship in most cases.
Johnson:
Did you work closely with the other House press galleries, the print and [24:00] periodical?
Tate:
I would rather talk about that when we are not being recorded. [Break in CD]

End of Part Two – Beginning of Part Three

Johnson:
Okay, we’re back on tape now.
Tate:
Okay. David Holmes was hired the same day I was in 1972, and he too was held up in his payroll.33 We were friends from the very beginning, and he got to be director very quickly because the woman who was the director over there left to go to Saudi Arabia with her husband, who was in the State Department.
Johnson:
And David Holmes was in charge of the periodical reporters?
Tate:
The periodical gallery, so he was a director a lot sooner than I was, and he retired about four years ago. In his hiring, he also hired a woman named Ann Jerome Cobb, who had worked with my husband in Talmadge’s office. So that office has always been, for a variety of reasons, a very good office to work with. They don’t compete with us very much, in very many ways. Because the periodicals don’t have the same immediacy, they’re frequently left out of meetings and left out of information. So we could serve them by making sure they knew when things were going on and making sure they knew when meetings were going on because we were always included in meetings. The young man who’s the director now, he’s somebody that David wanted me to befriend, and I did, and he’s been just a real asset to work with, and I’ve been somewhat of a mentor to him. His name’s Rob Zakowski.34
Johnson:
Can you provide an example of a way that you worked together, a specific example?
Tate:
Well, on almost—I can actually describe a way we worked together, that I worked with a print person, but not the director. When the officers were shot on that awful Friday in, I think it was 1997.
Johnson:
[July] 1998.35
Tate:
The galleries were supposed to be going on a site visit to Los Angeles. Well you know, I knew with [Tom] DeLay being involved, that this was going to be House driven, and it was clear things were happening.36 So I was the only director that did not go to LA [Los Angeles]. The rest of them went, and I stayed here, and we were around all that weekend. The print gallery was open, and there was a guy named Chuck Fuqua who was kind of like the lowest person in the staff, but he just happened to be on staff that day. He was supposed to be there, and there was a meeting called in the police headquarters, where they going to set up the coverage on this. I knew about it because the police always call us about stuff. I called him [Fuqua], and I said, “Who’s there?” and he said, “I’m it.” I said, “Well you’ve got to come with me. Get somebody to cover your office. You’ve got to be represented at this.” I took him with me because it was critical that we—that people know how this was going to operate, and that it was going to happen. When everybody left to go to LA, it wasn’t set that there was going to be a lying in tribute, and that’s the kind of thing television has to be in place for. There’s just—you can’t do that at the last minute. You have to bring in all the equipment ahead of time. You have to get your cameras in place. You know, the print people got back in time to actually be in place to make sure their people were escorted. Well, that’s fine, but he was there with me so that he could tell his group what was going to happen and when it was going to happen, so he could do the logistics for them.
There had been other occasions where we were the primary people at the Federal Hall thing, and we were the primary people once again because television is so much more time sensitive. We have to know ahead of time. We have to know before it happens. We have to get everybody in place. Our planning for a [4:00] lying-in-state…we’re probably the first office outside the Speaker’s Office who gets called about it because you have to start those trucks rolling and you have to have the plan in place. You can’t just wait to give out credentials the day the body gets here. You’ve got to get those things done. So we’ve been more—the radio-television group tends to be the ones to find out first about big events that are going to be televised.
Now, the print people could be the first to find out about a hearing that’s coming or an informational thing because they deal very closely with Members, and Members will talk to the print people on background more than they’ll talk to radio-television on background because they don’t want them there yet. So sometimes we have learned a few things from them, but in most cases logistics, we’ll know before they do.
Johnson:
In cases like you mentioned—the tragedy in 1998 or very unusual circumstances—do you also find that you’re getting calls from staff, asking you questions because they know that you’re the source of information?
Tate:
Sometimes we do. Not too much. We try to discourage that. We try to find some place for them to get answers because quite frankly, we’re just a six-person staff, and in an emergency situation, you never have six people. You generally have two that are working the beginning part of something. There isn’t enough time to answer everybody else’s questions, so we try to be sure we have a way to put out information, to get people to the place where they need to get tickets or places where they can find out things.
Johnson:
And the staff for your gallery, has it remained the same since you started in the 1970s?
Tate:
We had four people then. We went to five people, and now we’ve got six, and we’ll go to seven when we get the Capitol Visitor Center, or we hope we will.37 We’re approved for the seventh one if they’re funded.
Johnson:
Well, there’s many, many things that I want to ask you about, but I’m going to leave that for another time.
Tate:
Okay.
Johnson:
Is there anything that you wanted to add to today’s session?
Tate:
You were talking about the galleries and the renovation. There was one other key part to all that. When Wright was Speaker, there was a Clerk named Ben Guthrie, who left rather suddenly, and for a short period of time, there was a room he had in the basement of the Capitol, right in the center of the building, right near where the carryout is, and there was just this vacuum for like two months, and I went down and asked for that room.38 Nobody owned it for just that two months, and they gave it to us, and that became the beginning of the hub room, where all the infrastructure of the Capitol comes in, all this electronics comes in. So you know, sometimes it’s sort of you just have to be there when there’s a void. That was one of the impetuses for doing the renovation, is that now we had all this infrastructure of electronics coming in to the Capitol, and it needed an expansion. Since then we’ve expanded. We had to keep it in mind when we did the [Capitol] Visitor Center because you never want to have television brought offline. Nobody wants to spend as long as we’ve been without, you know, in the construction, you had to keep that up and running. So it’s been protectively built around it, but it’s been a key part of just the infrastructure for the electronics that go out of here, and that was one of those things you just sort of, you watch, and then something—just all of a sudden this little moment that you go to. Like going to John Mack, there’s a moment, and there was a lot more of that kind of thing, where there were personal associations that you could use. It still goes on, but [8:00] there’s just so many more people involved now. And there’s so much more work done that there were fewer people to make decisions, and the decisions could be made at a more direct—without all the checks and balances that you have to have now on a lot of things. That would have probably taken a year to get approved any other time.
Johnson:
With almost everyone that we’ve talked to, space has always been an issue, no matter what time period.
Tate:
Oh, yeah.
Johnson:
In the 20th century or 21st century.
Tate:
The building didn’t get bigger.
Johnson:
Right. Well, thank you very much for speaking with me today.
Tate:
Okay.

Footnotes

  1. Bob Menaugh served as the superintendent of the House Radio Gallery (later House Radio-TV Gallery) from 1939 to 1974. For more information, see “Robert Menaugh, Headed House Radio-TV Gallery,” 4 August 1978, Washington Post: B6; “The Opening of the House Radio Gallery,” Weekly Historical Highlights, Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/highlights.html?action=view&intID=288.
  2. Donald Fraser of Minnesota served on the Foreign Affairs Committee (later named International Relations) from the 88th through the 95th Congress (1963–1979).
  3. According to the Congressional Directory, Jeanne Hundley (later Jeanne Ordway) served as the superintendent of the House Periodical Gallery during the 93rd Congress (1973–1975).
  4. The daughter of two former Representatives, Hale Boggs and Lindy Boggs, both of Louisiana, Cokie Roberts also worked as a congressional correspondent. The Office of History and Preservation conducted three oral history interviews with Cokie Roberts, dated August 28, 2007, July 11, 2008, and June 23, 2009.
  5. Mike Michaelson served as the superintendent of the House Radio-TV Gallery from the 94th Congress (1975–1977) until his retirement on October 1, 1981.
  6. For a complete list of those who have lain in state, see “Those Who Have Lain in State or in Honor in the Capitol Rotunda,” Architect of the Capitol, http://www.aoc.gov/cc/capitol/lain_in_state.cfm.
  7. Eliose Poretz worked in the House Radio-TV Gallery from the 94th through the 98th Congress (1975–1985), and Helen Starr worked in the House Radio-TV Gallery during the 95th Congress (1977–1979).
  8. Commonly used before the implementation of electronic voting in 1973, teller votes enabled Representatives to cast “aye” or “no” ballots without being recorded by name.
  9. The House began televising live coverage of the House Floor proceedings in 1979. Both the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and C-SPAN broadcast the proceedings. For more information, see “The Introduction of Televised House Proceedings,” Weekly Historical Highlights, Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/highlights.html?action=view&intID=46.
  10. For historical background and a complete list of Joint Sessions, see “Joint Meetings, Joint Sessions, and Inaugurations,” Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/house_history/Joint_Meetings/index.html.
  11. Reference to a series of televised hearings during the summer of 1972 led by the House Select Committee on Crime concerning the influence of organized crime on sports. See Steve Cady, “House Racing Inquiry Seen Paving Way for Federal Control of All Sports,” 28 May 1972, New York Times: S9.
  12. For historical background on the State of the Union address, see “State of the Union Address,” Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/house_history/stateunion.html.
  13. The Million Man March transpired on October 16, 1995. For historical background on the event, see Ronald W. Walters and Robert C. Smith, African American Leadership (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999): 184–191. The Million Man March was covered widely in the press. See, for example, Michael Janofsky, “Debate on March, and Farrakhan, Persists as Black Men Converge on the Capital,” 16 October 1995, New York Times: B6.
  14. Olga Ramirez Kornacki is the fourth and current director of the House Radio-TV Gallery.
  15. For information on Shirley Chisholm and the “widow’s mandate,” the term coined to explain the path to office utilized by many women between 1917 and 1976, see Women in Congress, 1917–2006 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2006): 440–445, 5–6 and http://womenincongress.house.gov.
  16. Office of History and Preservation, Women in Congress: 488–493 and http://womenincongress.house.gov.
  17. Ibid., 482–487 and http://womenincongress.house.gov.
  18. For more information, see Julian Zelizer, On Capitol Hill: The Struggle to Reform Congress and Its Consequences, 1948–2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004): 181–184.
  19. For a brief synopsis of the career of Benjamin C. West, superintendent of the House Press Gallery from 1969 to 1986, see “Longtime House Press Gallery Employee Benjamin C. West,” Weekly Historical Highlights, Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/highlights.html?action=view&intID=355. The Office of History and Preservation conducted five oral history interviews with Benjamin C. West, dated August 24, 2005, August 31, 2005, September 7, 2005, January 19, 2006, and May 23, 2007.
  20. Reference to the General Accounting Office (name changed to General Accountability Office in 2004) and House internal investigations that revealed in 1992 that dozens of lawmakers had overdrawn their accounts at the informal House “Bank” run by the House Sergeant at Arms.
  21. In accordance with H. Res. 6 of the 104th Congress (1995–1997), the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) is elected at the start of each Congress and oversees the financial and administrative functions of the House that were previously the responsibility of the Postmaster and the Doorkeeper.
  22. For more on the history of Statuary Hall, see “National Statuary Hall,” Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, http://clerk.house.gov/
    art_history/art_artifacts/virtual_tours/statuary_hall/index.html
    .
  23. Doorkeeper of the House from the 93rd Congress (1973–1975) through the 103rd Congress (1993–1995, the last Congress in which the position existed). For more information on James T. Molloy, see Martin Tolchin, “The Keeper of the Door and Other House Parts,” 5 June 1985, New York Times: A18.
  24. “Legislative Approps” refers to the House Committee on Appropriations’ subcommittee that oversees expenditures for the legislative branch. Congressman Leon Panetta of California served on three standing committees during his House tenure (1977–1993): Agriculture, House Administration, and Budget.
  25. William “Fishbait” Miller was Doorkeeper of the House during the 81st and 82nd Congresses (1949–1953) and from the 84th Congress (1955–1957) until he retired on December 31, 1974. For information on the career of “Fishbait” Miller, see William “Fishbait” Miller, Fishbait: The Memoirs of the Congressional Doorkeeper (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1977); William Gildea, “Fish Bait at the Door: The Power of the Odd Job,” 17 February 1974, Washington Post: M1.
  26. For information on Bill Headline, see Lauren Wiseman, “William W. Headline; Led CNN’s Washington Bureau,” 23 October 2008, Washington Post: B06.
  27. Lorraine C. Miller was elected Clerk of the House on February 15, 2007.
  28. See the House Radio-TV Gallery Web site, http://radiotv.house.gov/.
  29. Barbara Cochran served as the president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association from 1997 to 2009.
  30. For information on the tribute to Rosa Parks, see “The Honoring of Civil Rights Icon Rosa Parks,” Weekly Historical Highlights, Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/highlights.html?action=view&intID=250.
  31. The House participated in a ceremonial Joint Session of Congress in Federal Hall in New York City. The session was held in remembrance of the victims and events of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. See Carl Hulse, “Congress, Back in Its First City, Honors Resilience of So Many,” 7 September 2002, New York Times: B1.
  32. Larry Janezich served as the Senate Radio-TV Gallery superintendent from the 101st through the 108th Congress (1991–2005).
  33. David Holmes served as the superintendent of the House Periodical Press Gallery from the 94th Congress through the 107th Congress (1975–2003).
  34. Rob Zakowski became superintendent of the House Periodical Gallery during the 108th Congress (2003–2005).
  35. On July 24, 1998, Russell Eugene Weston, Jr., forced his way into the Capitol and shot and killed Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson, before being shot himself. For a detailed account of this tragedy, see Francis X. Clines, “Assailant and a Tourist Hurt in Shootout,” 25 July 1998, New York Times: A1; “The 1998 Shooting of Two Capitol Police Officers,” Weekly Historical Highlights, Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/highlights.html?action=view&intID=270.
  36. As part of then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay’s security detail, Detective Gibson lost his life protecting DeLay’s staff when he and the assailant exchanged gunfire by the Majority Whip’s suite of offices in the Capitol.
  37. The Capitol Visitor Center opened on December 2, 2008. For information on the nearly 580,000-square-foot addition to the Capitol, see “Capitol Visitor Center: Project Information,” Architect of the Capitol, http://www.aoc.gov/cvc/project_info/index.cfm.
  38. Benjamin Guthrie was Clerk of the House during the 98th and 99th Congresses (1983–1987).