On Friday, ThinkProgress exclusively reported that Ari Fleischer was involved in Komen’s strategy regarding Planned Parenthood. We revealed that, in December, Fleischer was retained by Komen to advise how to fill their top communications position, and he drilled candidates on how they would handle the Planned Parenthood issue.
Today, Ad Age further reveals that, throughout the controversy, Fleischer has personally advised Komen CEO Nancy Brinker on how to handle the Planned Parenthood issue:
Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, who had previously been brought in by Komen to assist with an executive search for a senior VP-communications, provided informal advice. “When Nancy called me, I gave her my two cents worth,” he said via email. Ogilvy is Komen’s corporate and issues firm on retainer and was helming the issue as of Feb. 3.
But on Friday, Fleischer told ThinkProgress he had no involvement in the crisis communications effort. In an email sent to ThinkProgress after the publication of our story, Fleischer claimed our entire report was “inaccurate,” “unfair,” and “simply false” because it created the implication that he was involved with Komen’s strategy in recent days. An excerpt from Fleischer’s email:
Interviewing people for a job in December, none of whom were hired, is entirely separate from helping guide Komen’s strategy in February. The problem is fundamental – you have misleadingly connected two unrelated events.
Today, ThinkProgress asked Fleischer to explain his email now that he’s acknowledged he personally advised Komen’s CEO on Planned Parenthood strategy in January and February. Fleischer now claims that he was not involved in strategy because he did not participate “in any meetings or on any conference calls.”
As for why he objected to ThinkProgress’ initial report — which now appears to have understated the true scope of his inovlvement — Fleischer said it failed to get the “emphasis right.”
Fleischer, who retains a host of influential political and sports clients, makes his money as head of a private consulting company which markets itself as being able to “successfully deal with the media.” Fleischer appears motivated to minimize his connection to the Komen Foundation at a time when they suffered what is widely regarded as one of the biggest public relations disasters of all time.
As a fierce partisan and longtime critic of Planned Parenthood, Fleischer’s involvement also complicates Komen’s efforts to restore their reputation as an apolitical cancer charity.