English Honors Theses

Date of Creation


Document Type

Departmental Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Prof. Sarah Klotz


This thesis examines the role of media on the subjectivity of truth in presidential rhetoric and its ethical implications. In my three case studies, I find that there is some form of deception by each president in their chosen form of media. I analyze Roosevelt’s use of the radio, which he uses to hide his disability and gain more executive power to combat the Great Depression. I examine Reagan’s use of television and how he fabricates an intimate relationship with the American people to enact tax reform. Finally, I investigate Trump’s use of Twitter to deflect negative publicity as he claims that the news media spreads misinformation. I argue that Roosevelt and Reagan do not persuade unethically as they remain accountable to the public; however, Trump does persuade unethically because he forces the American people and the press to agree with his perception of the truth. I conclude that Trump’s dangerous rhetoric is partially a result of the network television news programs’ focus on entertainment, which has led to subjective truth dominating the political reality. Thus, I suggest that to fully understand any political situation, citizens must consume media from those whom they agree with and those whom they oppose. By not blindly trusting political rhetoric, the public is more able to play an active role in American democracy.


Reader: Kristina Reardon