Dana Perino, former White House press secretary under George W. Bush, discussed tricks of her trade Monday night at the Jack Morton auditorium.
Perino, who was the second female and first Republican woman to be the White House press secretary, stressed the importance of being informed about the news at all times, and advised the audience of about 100 students to read the hard copy of newspapers to get the most out of their news. The informal discussion kicked off the 2010 Distinguished Speaker Series hosted by the Graduate School of Political Management.
Larry Parnell, associate professor and director of the strategic public relations program at the GSPM, began by asking how Perino digested the news every day, given the continuous news cycle of the modern media industry.
“At the White House I read all hard copies of the five major newspapers before 7 a.m.,” said Perino, who currently works as a political commentator on Fox News Channel and chief issues counselor at Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations firm. “In my current field of work, CEOs are handed news clips by their PR people. They don’t understand some things Americans are facing.”
Perino said the problem with today’s news is the lack of resources.
“Everyone wants to break the news, so reporters shoot first and ask questions later,” she said about her experience in the press briefing room.
Perino said she is proud to have served under the “first gender-blind president.”
When Parnell asked about tips and tricks of the trade, Perino stressed the importance of being ethical at all times.
“My principle is to never lie. In the game of gotcha, you have to make clear what you can and cannot discuss,” Perino said.
She added that she would prepare the staff on days when particularly controversial headlines hit the news, and if she did her job well, the backlash was not as bad as they had expected.
Near the end of the discussion, Perino talked about one of her most memorable experiences serving under the Bush administration. It was on a trip with the president to the Bethesda Naval Hospital, where the most injured soldiers are treated, to award a purple heart to a man who suffered major brain injuries and was in a coma.
“His parents, wife and child were so happy to see the president. The soldier’s young son wanted to know why we were there, and just as we started to read the commission to the soldier, he awoke from his coma,” she said. “He asked for the president and wanted the commission re-read to him. If I wasn’t there I wouldn’t have believed my eyes.”