Said the Times, “When opportunity offered at the close of Congress, he indicated his dislike of the press by assisting in an effort to throw the press galleries open to the families of members of the House.”
When this tempest in a teapot boiled over, the controversy pitted Keifer against the dean of the press corps, Civil War hero Henry Boynton of the staunchly Republican Cincinnati Commercial Gazette.
Kinnison said Boynton “blew a gasket” at Keifer’s move, in part because Boynton had an agreement with the previous speaker that the gallery would be reserved for full-time journalists, a move designed to boost the profession’s standing.
Keifer accused Boynton of sparking the controversy because he’d refused Boynton’s illegal attempts to influence legislation.
In a stinging public letter, Keifer said: “You have so often been shown to be a liar and defamer of character that it has become unnecessary to deny anything you say.”
When the House of Representatives investigated the matter, but refused to substantiate Keifer’s charges, Boynton wrote letters accusing Keifer of abusing his power.
“It is unnecessary to reply to your puerile charges touching my general course as a correspondent,” he said, “except to repeat that they, also, are without substantial foundation and evidently are invented to distract attention from grave charges of official misconduct brought against yourself.”
Keifer was still in Congress — but no longer a party leader — when Boynton’s letters were published and the controversy grew. Keifer failed to win his party’s nomination in the next election.
As a footnote, Kinnison said the press section rule kept black and female reporters, who tended to be part-time, out of the gallery until 1947.
He said that’s something Keifer, a staunch advocate of blacks’ rights, likely would have noticed.