Former White House Press Secretary Fleischer Speaks to Communication Class

Posted: December 8, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Rey Banks

“Find out where conflict is real and report on that. If the conflict isn’t real, let it go. Don’t invent it and don’t put it there.” These were the opening words of Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush, as he addressed a classroom packed with communication and journalism students, faculty, and curious onlookers at George Mason on Monday.

In an appearance arranged by Frank Sesno, professor of public policy and communication, for a Bias in Media class, the legendary spinmeister discussed the press, the presidency, the recent elections, and his forthcoming book.

Still an unabashed supporter and defender of Bush, Fleischer continues to get paid for his eloquent and upbeat communication skills as a principal of Fleischer Communications. The former press secretary now supplies advice to clients on how to handle the press and strategically develop communication ideas.

Sesno and Fleischman
Frank Sesno, professor of public policy and communication (left), arranged for Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to George W. Bush, to speak to the Bias in Media class.
Photo by Rey Banks

During his 40-minute talk at Mason, Fleischer admonished the students who were considering a career in journalism to check their bias at the door when reporting and focus on the facts. While admitting it is difficult not to bring personal feelings to one’s work, Fleischer said he relished his position at the White House as a “cheerleader” for the president charged with presenting the agenda and news in a way that put his boss in the most favorable light.

Fleischer told cautionary tales of reporters who themselves sought to become the news, losing their objectivity and ability to present a fair and biased account of actual events in their personal quest for fame. He blasted media for their left-leaning tendencies and cited numerous examples of such reporting. If there was one point the former press secretary sought to drive home, it was that reporters have strayed from their duty to inform the public of the facts and instead seek opportunities to create controversy for the sake of controversy. This, he says, leads to lack of credibility in the news.

Fleischer took questions from students and was asked to defend his criticisms of some reporting after 9/11 that was unfavorable to the administration. In his legendary “Arispeak,” Fleischer clarified the context of his comments and reiterated that the liberal media sought an opportunity in a time of elevated emotions to unnecessarily stir up controversy.

In closing, Sesno asked Fleischer for his predictions of what the next four years would bring, and was told to expect more of the same. Said Fleischer, “The president believes in his mission in Iraq and will not change course. We can look for a more aggressive domestic policy, with changes in Social Security and the tax code.

“If you already like President Bush, you’re going to love him. If, on the other hand, you don’t like the administration’s policies, you will be unhappy.”

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