Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer defended the Washington press corps against Scott McClellan’s charge that the media were “complicit enablers” of the Bush Administration's misinformation campaign that led to the invasion of Iraq.
Fleischer, who compared himself to a “human pinata,” is remembered by this blogger largely for his warning about a crackdown on free expression and a possible role in the cover-up of President Bush’s Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier PR stunt.
Ari issued a not-so-veiled warning to the media during a press conference on September 26, 2001 after he was asked about Bill Maher’s criticism of President Bush for calling the 9/11 suicide bombers cowards. Maher said it is more cowardly to lob a cruise missile to kill people 2,000 miles away than to knowingly crash a jet into a building. The comment stuck out like a sore thumb during a time this nation was swept up in gung-ho patriotism.
From the White House Ari warned: “Americans need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.” This blogger believes many media took Fleischer’s warning to heart by becoming cheerleaders for the President’s war.
About the White House’s greatest PR triumph which ultimately turned into an albatross, Ari had told the media that the President couldn’t ride a helicopter to the ship because it was too far out to sea. That proved to be nonsense. The President flew on a jet to play "Top Gun" by dressing in a flight suit for a tail-hook landing. He manfully strode onto the carrier and boldly declared "Mission Accomplished" under a giant banner. The Mission is still not Accomplished by a long shot five years later.