Informal Exchange With Reporters

March 4, 1987

Q. You have a new man here. Do you think he'll fit the bill?

The President. I am very pleased and proud to say so.

Q. Mr. President, what do you think you have to do to restore your credibility?

The President. Ask me that question after the speech tonight.

Q. Do you still think that Colonel North is a national hero?

The President. His military record was one of numerous rewards for his courage.

Q. How about his involvement in the contra situation?

The President. I'm not going to comment on that.

Q. Will you tonight?

The President. Tune in.

Q. What is Mrs. Reagan's role in running the Government, Mr. President?

The President. Not the one that has been bandied about in the press. That is fiction, and I think it is despicable fiction. And a lot of people ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Q. Which part of it do you have the greatest objection to, Mr. President, of the many reports that have been written about that?

The President. Well, the idea that she is -- you realize I'm breaking my rule here, but you've touched a nerve here with that -- but the idea that she's involved in governmental decisions and so forth and all of this and being a kind of a dragon lady. There is nothing to that and no one who knows -- --

Q. Well, you know who said it.

The President. -- -- her well would ever believe it.

Q. You know who said dragon lady? Your Chief of Staff.

Mr. Baker. No, no, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International].

The President. No, he didn't. [Laughter]

Q. Anyway, is she pretty upset about it all?

The President. Well, obviously, she is. Yes, of course.

Q. What do you think could be done about it?

The President. Well, maybe I just said a few things here that will make some of you think twice before you repeat those things that have been said.

Q. Do you dispute the idea that she had a role in the departure of Mr. Regan?

The President. No. And as I stated in my statement, he had spoken to me months before about his desire to leave. And then when all of this came up, decided that he would see it out and wait until after the Tower commission report came in.

Q. Mr. President, you mean you do dispute the reports that she had a role in that?

The President. Of course, I do. As I say, he had a letter of resignation dated October.

Q. He did? How come we didn't see it?

The President. What?

Q. How come we didn't see it?

The President. Because, as I say, he decided to wait because of the problems that had arisen.

Q. No phone hangups?

The President. No more comments.

Q. So, you're not going to apologize tonight to the American people?

The President. Tune in. I won't break my rule again but -- --

Q. Why not? It's fun. [Laughter]

Note: The exchange began at 11:53 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House following a meeting with William H. Webster, the Director-designate of the Central Intelligence Agency. Howard H. Baker, Jr., was Chief of Staff to the President.