347. Editorial Note

On May 11, 1964, President Johnson called Assistant Secretary Mann to discuss a recent incident involving the Ambassador to Mexico, Fulton “Tony” Freeman. Johnson asked: “What’s this story about Freeman mixing up in politics down in Mexico?” He then described an article in which the Ambassador reportedly said that the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) candidate, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, would win the presidential election on July 5, and spoke “approvingly” of the expected result. The opposition was already criticizing Freeman for interference in Mexican affairs. Although he had not seen the story, Mann doubted that Freeman could have made the statements attributed to him. He assured the President: “My advice to Tony was to stay away from the press in Mexico.” The two men agreed that the story was “bad for the [Mexican] administration and bad for us.” Johnson told Mann to call Freeman for a report on the incident. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, May 11, 1964, 12:17 p.m., Tape F64.26, Side B, PNO 2)

Mann reported back to the President within the hour:

Mann: I talked to Tony on the telephone.

President: Yeah.

Mann: He said what happened was: last Wednesday [May 6] he went over to make a speech at the University Club there and the press got a hold of it and asked him what he thought about who’s going to win the election. He said that was none of his concern. They asked him then what the American press was saying about the Mexican election. He said he told them what the American press was saying.

President: He ought to have told them that he wasn’t a reporter.

Mann: Exactly. And I told him—He knows he’s goofed on it but apparently it’s not a major issue down there yet. It was [unintelligible] the opposition PRI got a hold of it and made a statement. But this was just a one shot affair that happened last Thursday or Friday. There hasn’t been any published it since or any editorials about it. And I reminded him again that the magic words were: “We don’t intervene in Mexican internal affairs. They’re perfectly capable of running their own government.” And he agreed that was the line he would follow and not let the press push him off that line.

President: All right. (Ibid., Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, May 11, 1964, 12:50 p.m., Tape F64.26, Side B, PNO 3) The portions of the conversations printed here were prepared in the Office of the Historian specially for this volume.