White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer responds to Bennett Roth.
BOB GARFIELD: Ari Fleischer, welcome to On the Media.
ARI FLEISCHER: Thank you. Good to be here.
BOB GARFIELD: Bennett Roth believes that you were trying to intimidate him. Were you?
ARI FLEISCHER: Well if that's-- very odd. He never said anything like that to me when we talked. In fact he told me he appreciated hearing from me, and he even acknowledged directly to me that next time he thought maybe he should ask the question in private rather than ask it at a briefing owing to the family's sensitivities of such a personal question.
BOB GARFIELD: What did you mean by "noted in the" White House.
ARI FLEISCHER:Every reporter should understand a question like that will get noted inside the White House, because people thought it was an inappropriate question! Obviously so. And I called to let him know that! There, there's an interesting phenomenon in Washington. There's a tendency for reporters sometimes when they talk to press secretaries, they kind of tuck their tails in a little bit, but then they talk to their [LAUGHS] journalist colleagues, they puff out their chests, and I think frankly that's what's happened here.
BOB GARFIELD:Mr. Roth says that it seemed like a perfectly natural question considering the circumstances with Jenna and the discussion that the president just was having on the very subject of parents and their kids discussing substance abuse. I'm stunned frankly that you or anyone else was shocked by the juxtaposition of the question--
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
ARI FLEISCHER: Because-- the context of the question really wasn't--
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
BOB GARFIELD: -- and the press event!
ARI FLEISCHER: -- the president's speech on drug abuse. The context was will you share with us what the president has said to his daughter. I think that on a matter like this most people believe that the fact that there was an incident that involved the law is and should be reportable and the White House has never raised any objections to that. Where the White House has objected and will continue to object is when reporters then seek to pin off of that - to find out what a man who's the president of the United States says to his child in a father/daughter relationship.
BOB GARFIELD:Well here's an alternative approach on this: what if a reporter asks a question that he or she deems relevant and the politician or the spokesman for the politician simply declines to answer and accepts that the reporter was doing what he perceived to be his job and the spokesman doing what he perceived to be his and-- no sense of betrayal or someone stepping out of line.
ARI FLEISCHER: There are times when press secretaries should, and I will continue to do so, politely and directly tell reporters if I think they have asked something that they should think twice about. That's always been the practice in the White House between the White House press secretary and the press corps. I think what's important is that at all times be done professional, and reporters appreciate that.
BOB GARFIELD: Ari Fleischer, thanks for joining us.
ARI FLEISCHER: Well thank you. My pleasure.
BOB GARFIELD: Ari Fleischer is the press secretary for President George W. Bush.
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