First Advisor

Peter Ehrenhaus

Term of Graduation

Winter 1992

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Ronald Reagan -- Oratory, Rhetoric -- Political aspects -- United States, Political oratory -- United States, Iran-Contra Affair (1985-1990)



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, v, 116 pages)


This thesis examines the manner in which Ronald Reagan responded to the Tower Commission Report concerning his involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair. It explores the following questions: 1) What were the factors leading to a rhetorical situation as defined by the media and which required Ronald Reagan to provide a public response of self-defense; 2) what strategies of apologia did Reagan employ; and 3) how did the media and the White House characterize the outcome of Reagan's speech?

Data for analysis were drawn from nationally recognized newspapers that shaped public perception of the Iran-Contra Affair: The Washington Post, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. In addition, The Tower Commission Report and Ronald Reagan's March 4, 1987 speech were used as primary texts.

It was found that the events of the Iran-Contra Affair qualified as a crisis, and exemplified an exigence needing a response. The thesis demonstrated that the Iran-contra Affair was an appropriate case for study as a rhetorical situation. Analysis demonstrates how Ronald Reagan made full use of the conventional apologetic strategies of denial, bolstering, differentiation, and transcendence to regain lost credibility; moreover, analysis provides further evidence of the utility of genre criticism.


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