January 23, 2017

CBS This Morning's hosts spoke with the former Press Secretary who served at the beginning of the Bush Administration, Ari Fleischer. Sadly, Fleischer seems like the voice of reason and decorum, even more so after seeing the way Spicer conducted himself.

Who knew that less than a decade after Bush 43 we'd miss his administration's ETHICS?

And the problem isn't just that Spicer lied, it's that he is Goebbels. He's pushing propaganda and lying because Trump's administration is going to re-define "truth" to be whatever Donald Trump says it is.

This isn't just about "truth," it's about authoritarian power.

O'DONNELL: I know he's a friend. What concerns you?

FLEISCHER: It's one thing to take on the press. That's a time-honored tradition in Washington, D.C. .

O'DONNELL: by Republicans and Democrats.

FLEISCHER: Absolutely. Take them on when you have the high road. About how many people on the ground showed up in the audience of the inauguration, who cares? It is not worth fighting over.

ROSE: And where it took place, too. In terms of the question that the president did at the CIA when he raised the question of crowd size in front of the heroes of the CIA.

FLEISCHER: One thing we have learned about President Trump is he's authentic. He lets it rip anywhere... the issue is -- wrong fight. If you want to get into a fight with the press about them trying to delegitimize his presidency, that's fair game. But a fight over who had more people at the inauguration that's just not worth it.

KING: But he came out swinging Ari. That was so strident, that had to come from somewhere.

FLEISCHER: It came from the president. I have known Sean almost 20 years. He worked in the Bush Administration. This is a time when you are told, get out there and fix it and do it now. It doesn't give you time to prepare. You can't develop the facts the way you want to. He did his job to represent the president.

...My advice to Sean is if you used a statistic that's wrong, correct it today. There is no harm done if you are Press Secretary, saying 'I got a statistic wrong' and walk it back. If you are making a broader point about the illegitimate press, make your broader point. Cool the confrontation down a notch or three.

And then it gets SO MUCH WORSE....

GAYLE KING: Can you see both sides? Do you think the press is to blame in any way?

Oh my god, Gayle. The suits upstairs have you well trained.

FLEISCHER: Here's where the press is to blame. They have been hostile to Donald Trump throughout. Donald Trump has been happy to return the favor....The part about the MLK bust they said was removed, why didn't Zeke Miller, a good reporter from "Time" ask a White House official to confirm it before he tweeted it. Reporters are too fast to hit Twitter and too slow to ask questions.


ROSE: Here is what you wrote in November. "I don't know what changes President-elect Trump will make, but if he decides to go around the press, abolish the daily briefing, not take a press pool to dinner. The reason he can get away with it is the mainstream media lost the trust of the American people." Do you believe the mainstream media is in danger of losing the trust of the American people?

FLEISCHER: Charlie, according to the Gallup poll, trust in the press to tell the news fairly and accurately is at an all =-time low. This is a tragedy for the press and the republic. It is vital the people accept the press's reporting as fact, because of the manner they have reported has led to a steady decline of people trusting the press. Which is one of the reasons the press is so vulnerable to whatever changes Donald Trump will make. My advice to the press: is it doesn't matter if the president praises you or criticizes you. Your job is to be neutral, fair, and accurate.

If your irony meter is redlining, that's because you might remember a few facts about Ari from his days as W's apologist/press secretary. Fleischer was one of the key players complicit in regurgitating 935 false statements from the Bush White Housethat followed 9/11 and lead up to the disastrous Iraq War. But Spicer makes Fleischer look like an honest broker. Yikes.

Jay Rosen of NYU's Carter Journalism School, issued some advice for those tasked with covering the Trump White House: Send the interns to cover Spicer's briefs and put your more experienced journalists elsewhere, because the real story is being hidden by Trump's press operation.

Spicer called it an “update on the president’s activities” but attacking for being biased against you is in no sense an “update.”

It's only Day Three. If the press doesn't realize what's happening here, and hides behind a both-sider mentality that includes their own pursuit of truth in "who's to blame"? They're sunk. And so are we all.

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