Haupt: The White House press secretary, reporter or employee?

William Haupt III
Posted: Sep 11, 2017 8:19 PM

 “The news media isn’t there to tell you what has really happened. It’s there to tell you what it wants you to hear. It’s there to make their editors and advertisers happy, not inform you.”

– Joan Wheston

Thomas Carlyle praised political philosopher Edmund Burke, who publicly recognized the press as gatekeepers of a democratic society to protect it from government. As Parliament opened in 1787, Burke proclaimed, “There are three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sits the Fourth Estate, far more important than they all.” Though the press, lawyers and other non consorts have had access to governments throughout most reported history, Burke designated the press, as the lynchpin to secure the people’s government. He conceded an ill informed public was the subject of tyrannical abuse.

“Education is the cheap defense of nations.”

– Edmund Burke

Before the 19th century, the U.S. press didn’t have much interest in the White House since Congress was so accessible and eager to trade scoops for votes. But in 1893 during Grover Cleveland’s presidency when economic chaos gripped the nation and reporter William Pierce bullied his way into the White House, things changed. As Cleveland failed to right the economic ship and sway public opinion, the reporters capitalized on this Panic of 1893. A hyperbolic press ruined the Democratic Party’s image, which floundered dismally for decades. The yellow dogging of these reporters helped incubate the ontogeny of the progressive era.

“A nation run by reporters is a nation run by fools.”

– Alan Strong

In 1904, Teddy Roosevelt invited rain-soaked reporters into the White House. They were awestruck as he offered them an office to work in and brought them coffee and a meal. And this was the birth of the White House Press Corps. But as always, when you give the press an inch they stretch it to infinity. Soon, reporters grew their presence and influence and shortly they weaseled into previously un-chartered “off limit” enclaves. It was this tradition that has morphed into an uncontrolled arm of government used to control public opinion rather than to report the news. Far too many of these former reporters have forgotten:

“A free press needs to be a respected press.”

– Tom Stoppard

By 1933 when FDR took office, he realized the powerful weaponry of the press in pitching his “Bad Deal,” which set the stage for today’s political news circus. By now, the charges of the White House press secretary environed dealing with newspapers as well as radio media. This fueled the engine for FDR’s fabinistic social re-engineering. Secretary Stephen Early was a coy and able hireling for a cagey FDR. As a former journalist and elected official, he held the tools to delude press releases and promote FDR’s agitprop to reporters. He was keenly adept in helping FDR to subvert legal protocol to suppurate progressivism.

“Dangerous masters depend on a few willing servants.”

– Aldo Dolores

Press secretaries cautiously grapple presidential antics to appease the press. At times, they must breach journalistic ethics to barter news releases. They obfuscate facts in a way that sounds more optimistic than misanthropic to these famished predators. Secretary Mike McCurry was the first to televise live press briefings under Bill Clinton. Little did they know the White House would become Peyton Place-East. One of these briefings opened the can of worms where Monica Lewinsky was hiding out. As this soap opera crept into every U.S. home, it became the hottest topic on the comedy circuit since Watergate. In an interview years later, McCurry said he and Clinton regretted they ever authorized broadcasting TV briefings. “That was the dumbest thing we ever did!” Obviously, there isn’t any doubt:

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

– George Carlin

The job of press secretary has less security than that of the guy who hired them. Most remain on the job only a few years because it’s impossible to continually sugarcoat the blunders of their boss. They are not only hired and fired faster than a Vegas comedian can tell a bad joke, they are under the scrutiny of social media and alternative journalism and can’t play hide and seek with the truth. Maybe that’s why few women have ventured into this dark field of journalism? Bill Clinton’s first press secretary, Dee Dee Meyers, abruptly quit without notice. Obviously, few people wonder why. Dana Perino was admirable under George W. Bush but left to take a position as a political analyst.

“Being a woman is a terribly difficult trade since it consists principally of dealings with men.”

– Joseph Conrad

Presidents have unique and combative affinities with the press and the secretary works for them.

It is the reporter’s duty to disregard party hype and report genuine news. Some secretaries lose sight of their journalistic duties but reporters can’t. Last decade proved presidents can’t effectuate while at war with the media. Media segued further left, and turned the other cheek to progressive failures and took the liberty to report them.

“Liberal news outlets and their activist readers routinely reiterate the incendiary rhetoric and accusations fed to them by progressive politicians.”

– R. Kliner

The presses’ romance with the White House has been checkered since it’s up to them what they spin and how they spin it. And since the recent political divide, it has festered into a mass-media infection. To insure a progressive victory, with the help of liberal White House cronies they turned an economic downturn into the “Eve of Economic Destruction.” And after eight years of helping Barack Obama rewrite the Constitution, confidence in media dropped to 32 percent, its lowest in Gallup poll history. Since the election of Donald Trump, it’s down another 8 points! With arrant assailing of Sean Spicer and their tenacious underpinning of his new press secretary, Sarah H. Sanders, the third woman in history to permeate their good ol’ boys club, their credibility has gone belly up.

“I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a b****, OK.”


Author Bernie Mares wrote, “Thank God I’m a journalist and no longer a reporter.” Yes, a reporter’s job isn’t easy but it was their career by choice. A good one disseminates the truth, even it they fall in disfavor with their editor or the White House. When they sit behind a typewriter they know they have no friends. A bad one goes along to get along if it sells papers or increases ratings. He will prostitute his oath of truth and dignity to please an editor or the White House. A D.C.  press secretary dawns a dissimilar hat the day he takes the job. He’s no longer a good cop or a bad cop, but an employee on the payroll.

“The boss is always right even when he’s wrong.”

– Blaine Fulbright

The best press secretaries have seen their job as two-way streets: from principle or pragmatism. Not only to convey White House minutiae to the media, but to represent the press in high councils of the government. There’s much to be admired about their work and dedication. But even the best ended up pounding sand when they showed more loyalty to their master rather than their oath of allegiance to the Fourth Estate. When asked about Watergate, Nixon’s patriotic and competent press secretary retorted:

“If my answers sound confusing, I think they are confusing because questions are confusing and the situation is confusing, and I’m not in a position to clarify it.”

– Ron Ziegler

Plutarch wrote, “No man delights in the bearer of distorted truth.” White House press reporters are distorting news worse than a fable written by a bad comic book science fiction writer. The enemy is not the press secretary, they are only the messenger. Let’s not continue to kill the messenger, but reporters who breach the ethics of their trade.

“Journalism is a profession. It takes skill, courage and conviction. If a writer does not possess that talent, they become a news reporter.’’

– Carla Rice