Ari Fleischer: Press biased, 'particularly on social issues'

Ari Fleischer: Press biased, 'particularly on social issues'
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Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the press has “an inherent bias towards conflict” and an ideological bias “particularly on social issues” in an interview with The Hill.


Fleischer, who served as President George W. Bush's press secretary from January 2001 to July 2003, said the bias on social issues is against conservatives and Republicans.

“There’s no question about it. The press is an inherent bias towards conflict. In many ways, their first, worst bias,” Fleischer said. “But once they’re done with the juicy conflict, they have an ideological bias. Particularly on social issues, which makes it a lot easier to be a Democrat dealing with the press than a Republican.


Fleischer says he keeps a folder that's “bulging” with examples of media bias.

The latest example, he said, was Thursday after Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsTrump attack puts Sessions in bind Overnight Cybersecurity: DOJ takes down two online criminal markets | Kansas breach exposed 5M Social Security numbers Dem senator: Trump acting like he's still on ‘The Apprentice’ MORE visited the Mexican border.

 “Here’s how The Washington Post covered it,” Fleischer said, reading directly from the story.

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“‘The Trump administration — and Sessions in particular — has taken a hard-line stance on immigration, alarming activists who say U.S. officials are testing legal boundaries and implementing policies contrary to American values.’



“It doesn’t say 'illegal immigration' though,” he said. “It conflates it to immigration. [The story cites] four people, all critical of what Sessions did, and does not include one quote of anyone praising what Sessions did.”



He said this is how the bias against Republicans works.

“And it's because newsrooms consist of too many like-minded people. Nobody who read this story thought; 'Why are we putting four people against him? Isn’t there one person who supports Sessions? Isn't there two? Aren’t there four?’



“Then why are we complaining it was illegal and legal? Republicans are for legal immigration.”



Fleischer, once a CNN contributor and still a frequent face on all the major cable news networks as a guest, currently operates a small public relations company, Fleischer Communications, that boasts some very large clients, including the NFL, Major League Baseball and the College Football playoff.

The husband and father of two says he “couldn't be happier” doing what he does now as an adviser on how to handle the press.



“[Being out of politics] has made politics for me very enjoyable,” says Fleischer, 56. “It’s not my livelihood — I don’t live or die by who’s up or down, which is how you operate in Washington.”


Fleischer cites the Mexico City policy, which prohibits U.S. funding to international family planning groups that provide abortion services, as a prime example of how the press can treat a story on a social issue in two very ways.

He evoked former CBS anchor Dan Rather's framing of the story under two different presidents of two different parties as an example.



“Here's how Dan Rather covered it,” Fleischer says. “'Today with the stroke of a pen, President Clinton delivered on his campaign promise to undo regulations of the Reagan-Bush years.' Eight years later, Dan Rather: ‘This was President Bush’s first day in the office, and he did something to quickly please the right flank in his party.'

"So with Republicans, its partisanship, its conservatism, it’s right-wing,” Fleischer said. “With Democrats, it’s honoring a promise.”


Fleisher said the media appeared to learn few lessons from an election that the pundits got wrong. He said the press needs to move on from validating “opinions or approaches of like-minded colleagues.”



“They don’t change their ways; they make and repeat the same mistakes that are mostly derived from bias,” Fleischer said. “And they talk to each other and reinforce their worst habits.



“I think they’ve been too far separated from the readers,” he said. “They’re too much surrounded by their colleagues. And it’s hard for anybody, given human nature, to break from that bubble.

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"You’re here to report for the people who aren’t here,” Fleischer said. “They’re here to rub shoulders or to validate opinions or approaches with likeminded colleagues. They’re there to deliver the news to people that are hundreds of thousands of miles away and can’t possibly be there.



“Almost all of them think almost entirely different from you.”