Moreover, a public-relations maxim of the Bush White House and its press officers was to shorten the lifespan of any bad press to make sure that it got out as widely as possible to as many major news organizations on the same day. For example, in February of 2006, after learning that The New York Times was going to run a story about an administration program to covertly obtain bank records to track down potential terrorists, the White House briefed reporters from the competing Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times so that they would all be able to publish the story that same night.
The case study of what occurred in that instance became the playbook for how public-relations specialists for the administration handled minimizing the impact of bad news and putting their own spin on it: Get everything out everywhere at once, get it out to authoritative news sources, and get your version out first.
After [Arizona U.S. Attorney] Charlton’s firing, there was speculation in the media that it may have been due to his pursuit of Renzi. (Charlton himself never publicly suggested that that was the case.) Yet the report into the firings of the U.S. attorneys concluded there was “no evidence” of that.
Charlton was targeted, the report said, because he clashed with Gonzales over a death penalty case. Charlton wanted the Justice Department to foot the bill for recovering a murder victim from a landfill to make absolutely sure the forensic evidence supported the conviction. Gonzales refused. “I didn’t want to be left to wonder a year later, or 10 years later, or 20 years later whether a life might have been taken unjustly just to appease some political paradigm,” Charlton said.
The first excerpt came as a surprise to me, although I spent a good many years as a press officer for a U.S. Embassy, the Carter campaign, and the Federal Aviation Administration. Silly me, I never thought of (or heard of) diluting the news value of a reporter’s story by leaking it immediately to the competition.
As to the second, no great news there, I guess. Just another example, no more ripe than a hundred others, of the schweinerei that Bush and Rove made of the United States Justice Department. Who would have expected the ineffable Alberto Gonzales to spend the taxpayers’ money just to find out if a condemned man was really guilty?