Looks like the White House Press Secretary Alumni Club isn’t as tight as we thought. Both Ari Fleischer and Marlin Fitzwater have criticized the White House’s handling of the Cheney shooting.
“It would have been better if the vice president and/or his staff had come out last Saturday night or first thing Sunday morning and announced it,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday. “It could have and should have been handled differently.”
Former White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater criticized Vice President Dick Cheney Tuesday for delaying the release of information about his hunting accident on Saturday, saying Cheney “ignored his responsibility to the American people.” He told E&P he was “appalled by the whole handling of this.”
“The responsibility for handling this, of course, was Cheney’s,” Fitzwater, who served as presidential press secretary for George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, told E&P in a phone interview from his Maryland home. “What he should have done was call his press secretary and tell her what happened and she then would have gotten a hold of the doctor and asked him what happened. Then interview [ranch owner] Katharine Armstrong to get her side of events and then put out a statement to inform the public.
“They could have done all of that in about two hours on Saturday. It is beyond me why it was not done this way.”
Gerald Ford’s press secretary Ron Nessen–now at the Brookings Institution (and author of the Post’s “Think Tank Town” blog)–gave me his opinion on the matter:
I think this is a media tempest that will blow over in a few days, UNLESS the White House Press Secretary provides fresh quotes to carry the story around for another cycle. Why does a hunting accident in Texas require an official White House “reaction”? At most, the Bush and Cheney press offices ought to express regret for the accident, concern for the victim’s injury, and wishes for a speedy recovery. The White House also could put out some REAL news which would make the Cheney shooting story quickly fade away.