Ari Fleischer reflects on President Bush's short-lived truce with the press after 9/11

The White House and 9/11 impact

How Fleischer dealt with the press

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer reflected on the warm relationship President George W. Bush had with a usually hostile press following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks — and yet how brief of a truce it turned out to be.

The shock of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 may have united Americans behind the commander in chief for a period of time – including the press – but according to Fleischer, it didn’t last.

“It lasted about two or three months, Howard,” Fleischer told host Howard Kurtz Sunday on “MediaBuzz.” “For the press corps. I think with the country, it lasted longer.”

The Fox News contributor said he remembered the turning point.

“I’ll never forget in January 2002, the press was not happy that George Bush had a 90 percent approval rating,” he said. “They were used to a red hot briefing room where they could really go after someone.”

Shortly after the terror attacks came the Enron scandal, Fleischer recounted. Enron Corp., a U.S. energy, commodities, and services company, was found guilty on a series of accounting frauds as it filed bankruptcy. Fleischer said the media unfairly targeted the president in their coverage of the downfall.

“When Enron collapsed, the White House press corps went hard after George W. Bush, trying to blame it on him even though he had nothing to do with it. That’s, for me, is when the goodwill of the press evaporated and it turned back into the old days.”

“They wanted a new storyline,” he later added.

Fleischer – who, for the past several years, has shared his experience serving alongside the president in the hours after the 9/11 attacks in the form of a gripping Twitter thread – recently looked back on the surreal day in an interview with Fox News. He explained that the tweet that always seems to get a “huge reaction” is the one in which he quotes Bush’s forceful remark that the terrorists were “not going to like” him as president and that the U.S. was “going to kick their ass.”

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