Best Known For
Ari Fleischer is best known as the former White House Press Secretary serving President George W. Bush from 2001-2003.
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Fleischer quit the Dole team in September of 1999, and Dole herself dropped out of the race when the presidential campaign of another Republican, Texas governor George W. Bush, began to gain momentum. When the communications director for the Bush team, Karen Hughes, learned that Fleischer had quit the Dole campaign, she offered him a job. He initially declined, but Archer urged him to take the job,
and so he interviewed with Hughes. "I remember him telling me what he really wanted to do was find a nice Jewish woman and get married and have children," Hughes told Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz.
After the election dispute between Bush and Democratic hopeful Al Gore was resolved in the Texas governor's favor, Bush began making his staff appointments, and Fleischer was named the next White House press secretary. Fleischer endured some initial trials during his first few months on the job. Members of the White House Correspondents' Association complained that he called press conferences on short notice, and in June of 2001, a Washington Post article allowed Fleischer to voice his ire about acts of vandalism he claimed were committed by outgoing Clinton staffers. At times, he was derided as a member of a tightly controlled Bush White House staff, and termed an official spokesperson who appears to be tied to "a very short leash," as four-decade White House correspondent Helen Thomas told New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley. In response, Fleischer stated, "My job is to faithfully represent the president at all times. The French use the expression 'porte parole,' which means 'carries the words,' and that is what I do."
Barely a year into his high-profile job, Fleischer rose to new challenges when suspected militant Islamic extremists launched devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. On September 11, 2001, Fleischer was at the side of the commander-in-chief for the entire day aboard Air Force One, Bush's plane, which ferried him and his staff to two different military bases and then back to the nation's capital in the evening.
Fleischer weathered a small crisis when he commented, not long after the September 11 attack, that Americans needed to "watch what they say." The quote was mentioned in newspaper articles exploring issues of censorship in the new, highly charged atmosphere of national uncertainty and critics attacked his statement as an unprecedented restriction on free speech in modern times.
"Fleischer says he was also directing his remarks at GOP Rep. John Cooksey, who made the dopey remark that 'diaper heads' should be pulled over on the highway," reported Newsweek's Jonathan Adler. Adler noted that the White House official rescinded his remark afterwards and stated that he hoped that in such times of crisis, everyone would become "much more thoughtful" in their remarks. Fleischer, as Adler wrote, "went out of his way to note that 'the press has an unlimited right to do what it sees fit--in war and peace.'"
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