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Why Saying ‘Mr. President’ is Not Disrespectful

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by PatrickMarch 7, 2017

Some people who use the title ‘Mr. President’ in referring to the Chief Executive get accused of being disrespectful.

Is the title “Mr. President” disrespectful to the man in the White House?

When one works in television and reads some of the comments TV station employees receive, one quickly learns to never make the claim, “I’ve seen it all!”

Recently, viewers made the complaint that one of our anchors was disrespectful because he referred to Donald Trump as “Mr. President.”

To be fair, someone sent a message to NPR in 2009 complaining of their use of “Mr. Obama:”

“In speaking or in writing, the proper form of address for the president of the United States is ‘The President’ or ‘Mr. President.’ The President is due the respect of his office.”

It turns out, however, that using the title “Mister” before the president’s last name or the title “Mr. President” is precisely a show of respect decided upon by none other than our first president, George Washington himself.

It was 1789, the year Washington was sworn in, that a debate raged in Congress: how should the United States refer to its chief executive? Vice President John Adams pushed for Highness, as in “His Highness, the President of the United States and Protector of Their Liberties.”

Thomas Jefferson, as the story goes, upon being informed of that suggestion, referred to the idea as “the most superlatively ridiculous thing I ever heard of.”

Adams later decided that even that wasn’t “high” enough, and then proposed Majesty.

Can you imagine the uproar if Obama had been referred to “His Majesty” for the past eight years? Can you imagine the uproar from the other side if Trump were so named now?

George Washington decided on “Mr. President” as the acceptable title.

Many media outlets use AP Style, a specific set of writing guidelines published and updated regularly by the Associated Press. AP Style specifically requires the president be addressed by name and title, as in “President Donald Trump,” on first reference, and then by last name only on all subsequent references in the same story. AP Style does not use courtesy titles, so “Mr. Trump” is not likely to be found in a story written in that style.

Other sources, like NPR, and some newspapers, use courtesy titles throughout their stories.

Some anchors think it’s more respectful to say “Mr. Trump,” but they don’t extend the courtesy title to anyone except the president. In that case, I’m not sure how viewers can see it as an insult to the president.

Then again, in this day and age, we’ll always find something to complain about.

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Patrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.
2 Comments
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  • March 8, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    This is absurd. Since when did the title of mister become an insult of this magnitude – well, of ANY magnitude?! Talk about people being such negative downers! I don’t understand this at all.

    I was always very diligent in thinking of the current incumbent as “President” (fill in the) name, not just his last name. I must say, however, in the current incumbent’s case, I can’t even use any part his title, let alone name, because he’s an utter cad (I’m being very polite here, as I know that anything I normally say in reference to his Idiocy will be too strong). I respect the rules of your blog. I just don’t respect the (depending on how you look at it) the 43rd or 44th president. President Grover Cleveland severed two separate terms in the White House, which is why I say “43rd or 44th.

    I always loved the story of how the presintial form of proper address came about. The whole idea was not to have a single ruler rather than an entire ruling body with limitations to prevent unlawful representation. Making someone “royalty” would not be in any way democratic. It’s also quite rediculous, since no one can just “become” royalty, then have it taken away! You are either born as such or might marry into into such a firmament, but you’ll never just wake up with the blood of kings running through your veins!

  • March 7, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    This is absurd! I clearly recall hearing Dan Rather, himself, calling the president “Mr. President’ when he was a White House correspondent. I’m sure he is not the only one.

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