The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

What we can learn from Grover Cleveland’s distrust of the press

(Backgrounds by Craig & Karl for The Washington Post; Photo by Amy King/The Washington Post)

Known for his forthrightness, Grover Cleveland came clean when news broke in 1884, during his first presidential election, that he had fathered an illegitimate child. He told his political aides and allies, "Whatever you do, tell the truth." It's a line that has become part of Cleveland's legacy, and it was an approach to handling scandal that helped him put out the media fire and win the presidency.

In this 22nd episode of the Presidential podcast, historians explore Cleveland's reputation for straight talk and incorruptibility, and the very different decision he makes later in life to hide his cancer surgery from the press by having the procedure done at sea.

Biographer Matthew Algeo, author of "The President Is a Sick Man," and Library of Congress historian Michelle Krowl discuss the evolution of Cleveland's relationship with reporters. And Roman Mars, host of the 99% Invisible podcast, guest stars as the voice of the 22nd and 24th U.S. president.

Listen to the episode here or on iTunes:

In previous episodes of the Presidential podcast, we've explored topics like Abraham Lincoln's language and the violent life of Andrew Jackson. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.

As listeners tune in each week, the podcast reveals the ways in which our collective sense of what’s ’presidential’ has evolved over the years and how each president—esteemed, loathed or nearly forgotten—has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation’s highest office.

A new episode comes out every Sunday. Here's how to follow along:

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