No Disrespect In Calling the President "Mister"

It happens with each new president and occasionally in between: Some people take offense at the long-standing practice of CBS News and other broadcast journalists referring to the President with the honorific "Mister."

(AP)
Some misinterpret it as a sign of disrespect. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, entirely the opposite is true.

CBS News policy dictates that we never refer to the president by just his last name. We can do that for everyone else and even other world leaders – but not the American president and his predecessors. It's meant as a sign of respect.

For example, here's part of a radio report I filed this morning:

It's a media blitz for the stimulus plan by Pres. Obama this afternoon – as he sits for separate interviews with each of five network news anchors. He's still trying to rally some republican support for the measure. But Mr. Obama remains confident he will get the bill he wants to his desk in the next couple of weeks.

On first reference, it's "President Obama." But on second reference, it's "Mr. Obama."

The reason for this is simple. It would be very bad and tiresome writing to repeatedly refer to "Pres. Obama" in sentence after sentence. So on second reference, he'll be "Mr. Obama" or just "the president."

And it bears repeating. In no way is this meant to diminish his standing or the respect which he is due.

And it's not just an issue when a Democrat is President. The issue comes up during Republican Administrations as well. (For proof, check out the web piece I wrote about this very same issue in December 2006.)

Mark Knoller Is A CBS News White House Correspondent.
  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

Comments