The Cycle

McClellan, Rather chat on pro-war marketing

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan chatted with former CBS anchor Dan Rather June 4 at the 92nd St. Y in New York. The political world’s latest author-at-the-center-of-attention mentioned a few interesting tidbits about his role as press at the White House, and the way the executive branch’s staff manipulated the media in the run-up to the Iraq War, and his own personal experiences working in the Bush Administration.

  • Prior to the March 2003 invasion, the White House Iraq Group functioned primarily to market the war to the American public, stressing that Saddam Hussein was a “grave and gathering threat,” according to McClellan
  • Pro-war talking points were disseminated primarily to commentators, journalists, and talk show hosts deemed friendly by the group
  • President Bush, who once famously declared that he doesn’t read newspapers, asked McClellan from time to time what the press was talking about, at least prior to his first electoral victory
  • Challenged by Rather that the “marketing” of the war to the US public was actually the creation of “propaganda,” McClellan did not disagree
  • McClellan credits the McClatchy newspaper chain for having the most curious reporters about the need to go to war
  • Bush Administration members may have tried to intimidate members of the media, but McClellan says that occurred at a higher level
  • Bloggers were not paid by the Bush Administration, to McClellan’s knowledge
  • On a more personal level, McClellan said he was “a little surprised” predecessor Ari Fleischer left the position when he did, and admitted he may have been a bit inexperienced to take on the role of press secretary

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