White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer emphasized the importance of loyalty and objectivity since Sept. 11 in front of 130 students, faculty and staff in the Marvin Center Wednesday night.
After a year and a half of working in the White House, Fleischer stressed the important role that objectivity plays in his job and refrained from answering numerous student questions about his opinion on issues.
“The American people did not elect me. The president doesn’t pay me to go around telling people what I think,” Fleischer said during the speech, sponsored by the Community Living and Learning Center.
Fleischer, speaking from the Marvin Center third floor auditorium, said his first priority is to relay the president’s words accurately.
“By listening to the president, I can go right to the source and figure out what he needs to say,” Fleischer said.
When asked his thoughts on the press, Fleischer said his biggest criticism is that media organizations often exaggerate conflict.
“Reporters don’t have the luxury of hearing substance of issues; they have to resort to clashing issues,” Fleischer said. “The people should decide some issues for themselves.”
He stressed the importance of first-hand sources by telling students to read speeches instead of depending on the media.
When preparing for a public briefing, Fleischer said he has to listen to
the press and think like a reporter.
“My job is to serve two masters – to serve the president and press because it is fundamentally the right of the people to know what is going on,” Fleischer said.
He said journalists and politicians must now more than ever have a sense of duty and respect for the American people.
“September 11 has changed everything for me,” Fleischer said. “The world has changed; issues are so fundamental. Now we are faced with another source of issues and anger, which is the Middle East.”
Fleischer said it is difficult for him to communicate to the public that the threat of terrorism has not gone away.
Students said they were impressed with Fleischer’s ability to keep his opinions to himself.
“The most striking thing about his job is the difficulty to remain so objective to issues,” sophomore Phara Serle said. “Everything he says (after September 11) has much greater repercussions.”