Fleischer conducting a White House press conference
|24th White House Press Secretary|
January 20, 2001 – July 15, 2003
|Preceded by||Jake Siewert|
|Succeeded by||Scott McClellan|
|Born||Lawrence Ari Fleischer
October 13, 1960
Pound Ridge, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Rebecca Elizabeth Davis (m. 2002)|
Lawrence Ari Fleischer (born October 13, 1960) is a former White House Press Secretary for U.S. President George W. Bush, from January 2001 to July 2003. Today, he works as a media consultant for the NFL, Bowl Championship Series, and other various sports organizations and players through his company, Ari Fleischer Sports Communications. He is also an international media consultant to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He helped Mark McGwire in his media strategy for his admission of steroid usage. He was also briefly hired by Tiger Woods to help him with a strategy to make his entrance back on the PGA Tour, but was not retained after news stories surfaced promoting his representation of Woods. He was hired by the Green Bay Packers as a consultant in August 2008.
Fleischer was born in Pound Ridge, New York, the son of Martha, a database coordinator, and Alan A. Fleischer, who owned an executive recruiting company named Fleischer Search. His parents were Jewish; his mother is a Hungarian immigrant who lost much of her family in the Holocaust. He graduated from Fox Lane High School in Bedford, New York, in 1978, and graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1982.
Upon his graduation from Middlebury, Fleischer worked as press secretary for Jon S. Fossel, a Republican candidate for a New York congressional seat. Later Fleischer worked as press secretary for Congressmen Norman Lent. From 1985 to 1988 he was the field-director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. He went back to being a press secretary in 1988, working for Congressman Joseph DioGuardi for a short time.
Fleischer served as Senator Pete Domenici's press secretary from 1989 to 1994. He then served as spokesman for the House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee for five years. He worked as deputy communications director for George H. W. Bush's 1992 reelection campaign.
White House Press Secretary
Although Fleischer served as communications director for Elizabeth Dole during her presidential run in the 2000 election campaign, he joined George W. Bush's presidential campaign after Dole dropped out of the race. When Bush became the President in 2001, he tapped Fleischer to become the first press secretary of his administration.
At a White House Press conference on September 26, 2001, two weeks after the 9/11 attack, Fleischer answered press questions as follows, warning that Americans "need to watch what they say, watch what they do."
Q: As Commander-in-Chief, what was the President's reaction to television's Bill Maher, in his announcement that members of our armed forces who deal with missiles are cowards, while the armed terrorists who killed 6,000 unarmed (sic) are not cowards, for which Maher was briefly moved off a Washington television station? A: I have not discussed it with the President, one. I have … Q: Surely, as a— A: I'm getting there. Q: Surely as Commander, he was enraged at that, wasn't he? A: I'm getting there, Les. Q: Okay. A: I'm aware of the press reports about what he's said. I have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself. But assuming the press reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say, and it's unfortunate. And that's why—there was an earlier question about has the President said anything to people in his own party—they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.
Fleischer is credited with having been the first to introduce the phrase "homicide bombing" to describe what has also been called suicide bombing, in April 2002, to emphasize the terrorist connotations of the tactic:
|“||The president…convened a meeting of the National Security Council, at which point, in the middle of the meeting, the president was informed about this morning's homicide bombing in Jerusalem.…The Saudi telethon, as they have told it to us, is to provide assistance to the Palestinian people, and that isn't – no money is going to go to provide the homicide bombers with any assistance from the Saudi government.
On May 19, 2003, he announced that he would resign during the summer, citing a desire to spend more time with his wife and to work in the private sector. He was replaced by deputy press secretary Scott McClellan on July 15, 2003.
Alleged role in Plame affair
Fleischer became an important figure in the CIA leak case; he testified that Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff, told him that Valerie Plame was a covert agent weeks before Libby had claimed to have been informed of Plame's status by a reporter.
On July 7, 2003, at The James S. Brady Briefing Room, Fleischer was asked about Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador who had recently written a New York Times editorial criticizing the intelligence information the Bush administration had relied upon to make its case for invading the nation of Iraq. Specifically, Fleischer was asked to respond to Mr. Wilson's assertion that he had been sent to Niger to investigate claims that Saddam Hussein had sought yellowcake uranium and found no evidence that such events had ever occurred.
|“||Q: Can you give us the White House account of Ambassador Wilson's account of what happened when he went to Niger and investigated the suggestions that Niger was passing yellow cake to Iraq? I'm sure you saw the piece yesterday in The New York Times.
FLEISCHER: Well, there is zero, nada, nothing new here. Ambassador Wilson, other than the fact that now people know his name, has said all this before. But the fact of the matter is in his statements about the Vice President—the Vice President's office did not request the mission to Niger. The Vice President's office was not informed of his mission and he was not aware of Mr. Wilson's mission until recent press accounts—press reports accounted for it.
Fleischer testified in open court on January 29, 2007, that Libby told him on July 7, 2003, at lunch, about Plame, who is Wilson's wife. MSNBC correspondent David Shuster summarized Fleisher's testimony on Hardball with Chris Matthews:
|“||"Ambassador Wilson was sent to Niger by his wife. His wife works at the CIA," Fleischer recalled Libby saying. Libby said the information was "hush-hush, on the Q-T."
He testified that "The information about Wilson's wife was news to me. It was the first time I had ever heard it."
Fleischer also testified to the fact that Dan Bartlett, the president's communications adviser, told him the same thing on Air Force One days later on the way to Niger with President Bush. Fleischer had then relayed this information to Time correspondent John Dickerson and NBC's David Gregory in Uganda during the African trip.
Dickerson denied that such a conversation ever took place. Ari Fleischer gave his final "Press Briefing" on July 14, 2003.
On July 18, 2005, Bloomberg reported that in his sworn testimony before the grand jury investigating the leak, Fleischer denied having seen a memo circulating in Air Force One on July 7, 2003, which named Plame in connection to Wilson's mission and which identified her as a "CIA" covert agent. However, a former Bush Administration official also on the plane testified to having seen Fleischer perusing the document.
Columnist Robert Novak, who published Plame's name on July 14, 2003, made a call to Fleischer on July 7, 2003, before Fleischer's trip to Africa with President Bush. It is unclear whether Fleischer returned Novak's call. However, Fleischer is mentioned in Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's indictment of Libby. The indictment states that Libby told Fleischer (referred to as the White House press secretary in the indictment) that Plame worked for the "CIA" and that this fact was not well known.
After receiving an immunity agreement, Fleischer testified that he had revealed Plame's identity to reporters after learning it from Libby. However, in the end it was discovered that Richard Armitage first leaked Plame's identity, not Libby or Cheney.
Fleischer published a memoir, Taking Heat: The President, the Press and My Years in the White House, in 2005. Michiko Kakutani wrote in The New York Times, “[T]his book does not provide any new insights into the workings of the current White House. It does not present compelling portraits of cabinet members or members of the White House supporting cast. And it does not shed new light on the president or his methods of governance.” She found the book “insular, defensive and wholly predictable." In Salon.com, Eric Boehlert declared that despite “a few curious nuggets,” the book is “long on praise for his boss and criticism of the ‘liberal’ media, and short on revelations.” 
In November 2002, Fleischer married Rebecca Elizabeth Davis, an employee in the Office of Management and Budget, in an interfaith ceremony. Rabbi Harold S. White officiated the ceremony, with the participation of Rev. Michael J. Kelley, a Roman Catholic priest. They live in New York with their two children. Fleischer's brother, Michael, worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
He enjoys playing baseball in his free time and is a member of the two-time President's Cup champion Ridgefield Rockers.
- Tom Tugend,"Q&A with Ari Fleischer", Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, December 25, 2003.
- Triplett, Mike (August 18, 2008). "Media consultant Fleischer to visit". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2008-12-07.
- "nationalpost.com". Archived from the original on April 17, 2009.
- "cbc.ca". Archived from the original on January 10, 2010.
- New York Times: "WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS; Rebecca Davis, Ari Fleischer" November 10, 2002
- "Press Secretary Briefings" (Press release). Office of the Press Secretary The White House. July 7, 2003. Retrieved 2008-12-07.
- David Shuster (January 29, 2007). "Libby trial: Jurors taking note of Fleischer testimony". Hardball with Chris Matthews. Archived from the original on February 10, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-07.
- James Gordon Meek (2007-01-30). "Fleischer says he leaked Plame's CIA employment". New York Daily News.[dead link]
- Leonnig, Carol D.; Goldstein, Amy (2007-01-25). "Ex-CIA Official Testifies About Libby's Calls". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- John Dickerson (2007-01-29). "My Surreal Day at the Libby Trial". Dispatches From the Scooter Libby Trial (slate.com).
- "Prosecutor's Probe Centers on Rove, Memo, Phone Calls (Update2)". Bloomberg. July 18, 2005.
- Dan Froomkin (April 11, 2005). "Cheney's Unforgivable Egotism". The Washington Post.
- Ari Fleischer, Board of Directors at Republican Jewish Coalition website (retrieved June 30, 2009). Archived July 21, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Hitchens, Christopher. "Fear Factor: How did we survive Ari Fleischer's reign of terror?" Slate. Monday September 11, 2006.
- NewsHour interview from PBS
- CNN article on Fleischer's resignation
- Transcripts of all White House press briefings since 2001
- Ari Fleischer Sports Communications
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|White House Press Secretary