Dana Perino cashed in on her stint as White House press secretary in the Bush administration in the usual way, by signing on with a Washington PR firm (resulting in the occasional disclosure problem). She also got a common perk for ex-employees of Republican administrations -- she joined the Republican administration in exile at Fox News.
If Perino ever felt constrained by the facts while speaking from the podium in the White House, she doesn't seem to feel that way now. Her tenure as Fox News' press secretary in exile has been marked by one false or misleading claim after another.
This past week, Perino has engaged in a veritable parade of whoppers to attack the Obama administration's handling of suspected terrorists in general and, in particular, alleged "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab -- and to try to cover for her old boss.
On Monday's Fox & Friends, faced with the argument that the Bush administration did a fine job of handling shoe bomber Richard Reid in the criminal justice system instead of military detention, Perino claimed that the Reid case was different because "there wasn't a system in place" for President Bush to order Reid to be held by the military. But the supposed lack of a working system didn't prevent the Bush administration from holding others captured around the same time as Reid, or even before, in military detention.
In that same Fox & Friends appearance, Perino asserted that Abdulmutallab bought a one-way ticket to Detroit. Wrong again -- administration officials say he bought a round-trip ticket.
Then, in another Fox & Friends appearance on Friday, Perino claimed that the Obama administration admitted that it "bungled" the interrogation and Mirandizing of Abdulmutallab following his arrest because "they had to do a review." In fact, the "review" in question focused on intelligence and national security measure failures prior to the incident, not Abdulmutallab's detention and interrogation.
These are just the latest entries in Perino's track record of misleading and botching facts on Fox. She claimed that the Obama White House's criticism of a news outlet "feels un-American" -- even though she attacked NBC from Bush's White House. She pushed fuzzy math in attacking health care reform. And of course, there was her infamous claim that "[w]e did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term," which she had no choice but to walk back. (Somehow, that did not keep her from later insisting that Democrats are acting "as if 9-11 never happened.")
Fox News purports to have a zero-tolerance policy toward "on-screen errors," though it seems to be directed only at technical glitches and not what anyone actually says on the air. One can presume that as long as Perino contributes to Fox News' anti-Obama narratives, she won't be seeing adverse write-ups in her Fox News personnel file anytime soon.
Such attacks -- even as false as they are -- dovetail nicely with Fox News' all-but-declared war against Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, who committed the offense of pushing back against Republican attacks over the administration's handling of terrorism. How aggressive is Fox's anti-Brennan crusade? Gregg Jarrett -- co-host of a designated "news" program that Fox wants you to think is objective -- claimed that Brennan "keeps making false accusations, apparently," and asked Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, "Shouldn't this guy, who advises the president, resign?"
That's an attitude that comes straight from Fox News management. Washington managing editor Bill Sammon -- in apparent violation of his own memo calling for Fox employees to at least pretend as though they're real journalists -- asserted on Fox News Sunday that the "mainstream media" hates Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement because it's "galvanizing Republicans."
Perino is still a press secretary. The only differences are that the "administration" she's spinning for is housed at a TV channel, not in the White House, and that she's on the payroll of Fox News, not the federal government.
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