Chronicling the highs, lows, quips, quotes, comings and goings of Washington, D.C. spokesguys and spokesgals

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ari Says Hill Flacks Pitch, WH Flacks Defend

Seth Gitell, former Boston Phoenix reporter and ex-press secretary to Boston Mayor Tom Menino, sat down with ex-WH flack Ari Fleischer last week and wrote about it for the New York Sun. Gitell, who says he relates to Fleischer because he knows "what it is like to be in the public eye and be bald," offers these pearls of wisdom from two ex-flacks:
  • "When you're on the Hill, you're always pitching. You're almost never defending," [Fleischer] says. A successful day would mean getting his boss's name mentioned in a newspaper article in connection with a proposal or action.
  • "The office of the press secretary is the job where you come in wearing a piƱata, you know you're going to catch it," Mr. Fleischer jokes. That's a little bit like being the press secretary for a mayor's office where one is likely to be queried on matters as picayune as a pit bull attack to more serious things such as crime and homeland security.
  • The press came to Mr. Fleischer with some biases, which magnifies the challenge for whoever is carrying the brief for a president or a big city mayor. "They're biased. They're biased in favor of conflict. They're biased in favor of blame of whoever is in government."
  • A normal person who has reached a relatively successful position in life has been trained to engage in discourse. Television, in particular, rewards the quipster and the flamboyant quotemaster. All that life experience and training must be quickly and completely unlearned if an individual is to survive as a press secretary. In many cases, the press secretary must say on national television,"I don't know" even though saying "I don't know" repeatedly doesn't exactly render a person the second coming of Dick Cavett.

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