Sarah McClendon

Our oldest White House correspondent has some critical words for the press–and for government.


On Sarah McClendon’s first day as a White House correspondent, Bill Clinton was still a twinkle in his mother’s eye. It was 1944, and McClendon–just out of the U.S. Army where she had served as a public information officer with the Women’s Army Corps in World War II–was a rookie reporter assigned to cover Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A thousand miles from her hometown of Tyler, Texas, she knew little about presidential politics and was at first too nervous to ask any questions.

Ten presidents later, McClendon is still covering the White House. Under the banner of her McClendon News Service (which includes two part-time staff members and one intern), she cranks out a weekly syndicated newspaper column, a biweekly newsletter, and a weekly radio commentary that airs on 1,200 stations across the nation. At the age of 85 (86 this July), McClendon is the true dean of the Washington press corps–a decade older than the venerable Helen Thomas of UPI.

Her age and dependence on a wheelchair, or cane, make it difficult for her to pursue stories as vigorously as she once did. But, continuing to fight for “the people’s right to know,” McClendon still doesn’t miss a day in the White House press room.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2018 demands.