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Scott McClellan

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Scott McClellan
24th White House Press Secretary
In office
July 15, 2003 – May 10, 2006
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byAri Fleischer
Succeeded byTony Snow
White House Deputy Press Secretary
In office
January 20, 2001 – July 15, 2003
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
LeaderAri Fleischer
Preceded byJake Siewert
Succeeded byDana Perino
Personal details
Born (1968-02-14) February 14, 1968 (age 56)
Austin, Texas, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (Formerly)
Jill Martinez
(m. 2003)
RelativesW. Page Keeton (grandfather)
EducationUniversity of Texas at Austin (BA)

Scott McClellan (born February 14, 1968) is the former White House Press Secretary (2003–06) for President George W. Bush, he was the 24th person to hold this post. He was also the author of a controversial No. 1 New York Times bestseller about the Bush administration titled What Happened. He replaced Ari Fleischer as press secretary in July 2003 and served until May 10, 2006. McClellan was the longest serving press secretary under George W. Bush.

He is now the Vice President for Communications at Seattle University.[1]


Born in Austin, Texas, McClellan is the youngest son of Carole Keeton, former Texas State Comptroller and former 2006 independent Texas gubernatorial candidate, and attorney Barr McClellan. McClellan's brother Mark headed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and was formerly Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration. McClellan is the grandson of the late W. Page Keeton, longtime Dean of the University of Texas School of Law and renowned expert in tort law. He married Jill Martinez in November 2003.[2] They have three sons.


McClellan with President Bush as he announced his resignation as White House Press Secretary.

McClellan graduated from Austin High School in 1986. He was a top-ranked tennis player there and served as student council president. He later graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, where he was president of Sigma Phi Epsilon and a member of the tennis team in his early college years, with a B.A. in 1991.[3] He served as campaign manager for three of his mother's successful campaigns for statewide office. In addition, he worked on political grassroots efforts and was the Chief of Staff to a Texas State Senator.[4]

McClellan waves farewell following his final press conference, May 5, 2006.

Karen Hughes, then-Governor of Texas George W. Bush's communications director, hired McClellan to be Bush's deputy communications director. McClellan served as Bush's traveling press secretary during the 2000 presidential election. McClellan became White House Deputy Press Secretary in 2001. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, who stepped down as White House Press Secretary on July 15, 2003. McClellan announced his resignation as Press Secretary on April 19, 2006, and was replaced with Tony Snow.

Memoir and criticism of Bush administration[edit]

McClellan criticized the Bush administration in his 2008 memoir, What Happened.[5] In the book, he accused Bush of "self-deception"[6] and of maintaining a "permanent campaign approach" to governing rather than making the best choices.[7] McClellan stopped short of saying that Bush purposely lied about his reasons for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, writing that the administration was not "employing out-and-out deception" to make the case for war in 2002,[8] though he did assert the administration relied on an aggressive "political propaganda campaign" to sell the Iraq War.[9] His book was also critical of the White House press corps for being too accepting of the administration's perspective on the war,[7] and of Condoleezza Rice for being "too accommodating" and overly careful about protecting her own reputation.[6]

In a Washington Post article on June 1, 2008, McClellan said of Bush: "I still like and admire George W. Bush. I consider him a fundamentally decent person, and I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people."[10]

Speaking frequently on the TV circuit, McClellan told Keith Olbermann in an interview on June 9, 2008, regarding the Iraq War planning: "I don't think there was a conspiracy theory there, some conspiracy to deliberately mislead. I don't want to imply a sinister intent. There might have been some individuals that knew more than others and tried to push things forward in a certain way, and that's something I can't speak to. I don't think that you had a bunch of people sitting around a room, planning and plotting in a sinister way. That's the point I make in the book. At the same time, whether or not it was sinister or not, it was very troubling that we went to war on this basis."[11]

As a result of his assertions in his book, McClellan was invited to testify before the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary.[12] During the actual testimony McClellan said: "I do not think the president had any knowledge" (of the revelation of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as a C.I.A. agent); "In terms of the vice president, I do not know."[13]

Response to criticisms[edit]

The Bush administration responded through Press Secretary Dana Perino, who said, "Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. We are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew."[14]

Critics of McClellan's book included former White House staffers such as Karl Rove, Dan Bartlett, Ari Fleischer and Mary Matalin. Fleischer and Matalin have claimed that McClellan had not shared similar doubts during his tenure in the White House, and that if he had held such doubts then he ought not to have replaced Fleischer as Press Secretary. McClellan has responded by stating that he, like many other Americans, was inclined to give the administration the "benefit of the doubt" on the necessity of the Iraq War, and did not fully appreciate the circumstances until after leaving the "White House bubble".[15]

Bob Dole penned an excoriation of McClellan's book, writing, "Bottom line is that I have little respect for turncoats like McClellan who have it both ways. Some in public (and private) life have no shame when big bucks are involved. If their motive is 'good government,' O.K. but that's rarely the case."[16] Dole likened the experience to a personal one, referring to a book, "Senator for Sale," written in 1995 by his ex-staffer, Stanley Hilton, who worked for him in 1979 and 1980.[16] Dole's spokesperson, Nelson Warfield, responded to the book by characterizing it, in the Boston Globe, as "pure garbage," a "lame attempt at character assassination."[16]

On May 28, 2008, The O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly presented a clip from an interview with Fleischer, who suggested that the book was heavily influenced by the publisher's editor. In a subsequent interview on The O'Reilly Factor days later, McClellan told O'Reilly that contention was not true. McClellan further testified under oath before the House Judiciary Committee that Fleischer's assertion was false. McClellan stated on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann that "everything in the book is a clear reflection of my views and everything in the book is mine."[15]

2008 election cycle[edit]

McClellan endorsed Barack Obama for president on CNN's D.L. Hughley Breaks the News aired on October 25, 2008. The endorsement was reported in the press two days earlier as the show had been taped prior to airing.


  1. ^ "Former White House Press Secretary Joins SU" Archived September 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Leibovich, Mark (December 22, 2005). "Unanswer Man". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 25, 2008.
  3. ^ Scott McClellan - Profile at NNDB Retrieved 18.August 2013
  4. ^ White House bio.
  5. ^ What Happened. 2008. ISBN 978-1-58648-556-6.
  6. ^ a b Bumiller, Elizabeth (May 28, 2008). "In Book, Ex-Spokesman Has Harsh Words for Bush". The New York Times. Retrieved May 28, 2008.
  7. ^ a b Allen, Mike (May 27, 2008). "Exclusive: McClellan whacks Bush, White House". The Politico. Retrieved May 27, 2008.
  8. ^ Shear, Michael D (May 28, 2008). "Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 28, 2008.
  9. ^ "Ex-aide Scott McClellan rips Bush's Iraq 'propaganda'". Associated Press. May 28, 2008. Retrieved May 28, 2008.
  10. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (June 1, 2008). "Culture of Deception". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 21, 2008.
  11. ^ "McClellan: White House 'Heads in sand'". June 2008. Archived from the original on June 13, 2008. Retrieved June 22, 2008.
  12. ^ Abramowitz, Michael (June 10, 2008). "McClellan To Testify About CIA Leak". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  13. ^ "McClellan: Cheney should testify about CIA leak". CNN. June 20, 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  14. ^ Loven, Jennifer (June 21, 2008). "White House calls McClellan's book sour grapes". Associated Press. Archived from the original on June 5, 2008. Retrieved June 21, 2008.
  15. ^ a b "Countdown, 2008-05-29". Countdown with Keith Olbermann. May 29, 2008.
  16. ^ a b c Dole cites own book to explain why he spoke out on McClellan, Politico, Jonathan Martin, May 30, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2021.

External links[edit]

  • Doyle, Leonard (November 22, 2007). "Former aide accuses Bush on CIA leak". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the Vice-President, the president's chief of staff and the president himself.
  • Hornick, Ed (June 3, 2008). "McClellan backs some of Obama's agenda". CNN. McClellan – who has faced withering criticism from the White House and other Bush allies since his book was released – declined to answer directly when asked if he still considers himself a Republican.
Political offices
Preceded by White House Press Secretary
Succeeded by