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President Kennedy Denies Crack about Businessmen

May 9, 1962 - President Kennedy denied today that he made a sharply critical remark about “all” businessmen. He told his news conference that he had had some unkind thoughts about certain leaders of Big Steel during the recent price controversy, but added: “That is all past. Now we are working together, I hope.” The quotation heard around the business world was printed in The New York Times on April 23. The statement attributed to the President was: “My father always told me that all businessmen were sons-of-bitches, but I never believed it till now.” Since the publication of the quotation, it has also provoked editorial comment and a great deal of private comment to the effect that this was evidence of a bitter and hostile anti-business attitude on the part of the President. This disturbed the President and his colleagues, especially since they have been trying to reassure the business community ever since the steel controversy that the Administration’s swift intervention was a special case, not to be interpreted as a policy of hostility toward the business community. Also, Democratic political leaders were fearful that the quotation would be used in the 1962 and 1964 elections, and this was another factor in the President’s decision to set the record straight.

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