Franklin Roosevelt and the Media

Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as the 32nd president of the U.S. from 1933 until the time of his death in 1945. People remember his reign for various reasons. One primary reasons why the Americans remember and glorify Roosevelt is that he formed the New Deal Coalition, which expanded liberalism in the U.S. throughout the third quarter of the 20th century (Poore). A striking feature about Roosevelt is that he is the only American president who served for more than two terms. His third term commenced in January 1941 when he was once again instituted as the president, while his fourth term came to a halt following his death (Poore). The study pays considerable attention to the life of Roosevelt with regard to his relation with the media. It particularly pays attention to how the media handled his disability and elaborates whether this was correct or incorrect. The paper examines what the president did that was essential in history and the media, as well as illustrates the challenges Roosevelt underwent that the media covered. It emerges that Roosevelt progressed to achieve his political ambitions despite being constrained by his health condition, an inspiration that he got from the way the media handled his sickness.

How the Media Treated Roosevelt’s Disability

While on an unofficial trip to Campobello, Roosevelt developed illness. Initially, the president was convinced he had a cold, but after some days, the whole of his legs became increasingly numb, making it difficult for him to walk. Medical practitioners thought that Roosevelt’s case was spinal thrombosis or a spinal-related ailment (Poore). However, further analysis revealed that he suffered from polio (Poore). The ailment seemed to have shuttered his political career because he had already ventured into certain political activities, but his relentless efforts did not derail his aspirations.

The media did not shy away from covering Roosevelt’s disability that had sparked national interest and debate. Soon after hearing the news, newspaper reporters started trickling in from the mainland, aspiring to know what had befallen the person who nine months to the reported sickness had won the nomination as the vice president for the Democratic Party (nce again instituted as the president, while his fourth term came to a halt following his death (Poore). Roosevelt’s condition spurred varying reactions from the media. Media personnel tried as much as possible to capture the picture of the president while on wheelchair but this did not go well with Secret Service agents who would bar the view of his utilizing a wheelchair, and would terminate any photographs taken by members of the media fraternity who tried to circulate the pictures (Porter). Nonetheless, most journalists respected the request by the White House for not photographing Roosevelt in his condition. Furthermore, news reporters and anchors tried as much as possible to give a positive view about Roosevelt’s disability. Other than reporting that he had developed illness, most reporters acknowledged that his condition gave him courage and strength he had not displayed before (Porter). The media showed that the condition has made the leader more persistent and that the patience and persistence the president developed after developing the illness was instrumental in helping him accomplish most of state business. Overall, the media offered a positive view of Roosevelt’s condition.

Whether the Treatment was Right or Wrong

The media’s treatment of Roosevelt’s disability was right because it sought to encourage both the leader and Americans who became increasingly restless that the condition could render the Democrat unable to perform his political duties. The way the media handled the whole issue surrounding the President’s disability was good because giving a negative criticism of the issue could create more disturbance to the leader (Porter). Roosevelt wished that his condition stay away of the public light and contradicting his wishes could affect his emotions. Besides, it is unethical to give a negative impression of a disabled person because this could make them feel alienated and different from the rest. Hence, the media’s approach towards the president’s disability was remarkable and respectful.

However, a matter of concern is how the forces impacting on Roosevelt’s administration sought to suppress photographs of the leader in a wheelchair. His team tried as much as possible to keep away from the public eye the President’s inability, and the Secret Service terminated photographs by media personalities countering the appeal. In one instance in 1932, Roosevelt stands on a train where he leans on the train balustrade and his wife to gain support (Porter). The leader even embarked on campaigns while maintaining the deception that he could walk, while relying on various devices and equipment to maintain the impression. Critics may question whether the directive countered provisions of the First Amendment that was established in December 1791 and allows views, ideas, and information without restriction and intrusion, restriction, or prosecution by the state (Porter). However, it is evident that the Secret Service did not forbid the media from addressing the issue other than requesting operators in this area to restrict how they share certain images with the public.

The positive portrayal of the leader via the media was instrumental in helping him win both the governorship of New York in 1928 and the presidency in 1932. The media hailed some of his own very initiatives seeking to revive the socioeconomic aspects ailing the country. For example, many welcomed the formation of the Civilian Conservation Corp and the Securities and Exchange Commission and Social Security that was instituted to deal with potential socioeconomic calamities (Porter). The welcoming gesture indicated that Americans were embracing a disabled leader contrary to the leader’s expectations, with those sympathetic to his health rather feeling embarrassed. Overall, the media’s contribution towards concealing Roosevelt’s disability helped the leader approach the electorate and administer his roles as a leader more courageously.

What Roosevelt did that was Important in History and the Media

Many praise Roosevelt for his outstanding historical achievement as well as his enormous contribution towards media. A remarkable achievement is his drafting of the Square Deal, which reflected his primary aspirations that he categorized into three sections. He reiterated the need to conserve natural resources as well as the significance of protecting consumers (Poore). Furthermore, the domestic program created by Roosevelt that he termed as the Square Deal called for effective control of corporations (Poore). These proposals to elevate the country’s economy are usually termed as he three Cs of the Square Deal. In addition to championing for the Square Deal, Roosevelt showed the importance of the media in reaching out to the public and sharing many things with people in the way he presented most of his ideologies and directives through media. Miller Center asserts that Roosevelt initiated an Age of Publicity where presidents and other political leaders disclose their activities in a bid to promote their plans and aspirations. The Report by Miller Center further assert that Roosevelt and those who came after him depicted presidency into the limelight by utilizing the power of media, carefully presented by the press personalities and with the aid of emerging technology. Roosevelt’s advocating for the use of the media to express political ideologies established confidence around media presentations.


Even though the Secret Service had appealed to the media to avoid sharing certain pictures, members of the press still highlighted some of the challenges that the President encountered due to his illness. For example, media sources shared with the public about the President’s poor health and even announced that reports indicate that he suffers from polio (Porter). Many broadcasters held debates where they discussed the possible consequences of the inability. However, media personalities and debaters tried to keep off from lobbying harsh criticism that could result in more disturbance.


The study examines how the media handled the Roosevelt’s disability that tuned out to be polio. Rather than criticizing the leader as being unable to run his people because of his inability to walk, media personalities tried to conceal the matter and heeded to the request by the Secret Service. Instead, the media chose to emphasize on his strengths and good ambitions for the country. The presentation by the media as a capable leader motivated Roosevelt and played vital roles in helping him clinch the gubernatorial seat and the presidency. A remarkable historical achievement by Roosevelt was the establishment of the Square Deal domestic program that sought to conserve the environment, control corporations, and protect consumers. On the other hand, the leader encouraged politicians to present their opinions and goals through the media, which led many people to have confidence published and aired information. Finally, the paper illustrates how the media addressed the sickness but did not dwell on the negative aspects.

Works Cited

 “Inventing the Media Presidency: Public Opinion and Publicity in the Early Twentieth Century.” Miller Center, 2022, Accessed January 27, 2022.

Poore, Carol. “”But Roosevelt Could Walk”: Envisioning Disability in Germany and the United States.” Disability, Art, and Culture, vol. 37, no. 2, 1998,;c=mqr;c=mqrarchive;idno=act2080.0037.207;g=mqrg;rgn=main;view=text;xc=1

Porter, Tom. “How FDR kept his Partial Paralysis a Secret from the American Public — Even While He was on the Campaign Trail.” Insider, May 10, 2019.

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