Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Blame Game Begins

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Blame Game Begins

Article excerpt

THE MISUNDERSTANDING between Ross Perot and the media in the recent presidential campaign was so wide that he could only compare it with the Arab-Israeli conflict, James D. Squires, Perot's former press secretary, said in Los Angeles.

The former editor of the Chicago Tribune put most of the blame for the sour relationship on political reporters who, he contended, insisted on covering Perot as a traditional candidate, which he was anything but.

In a post-campaign campus speech sponsored by the University of Southern California School of Journalism, Squires expressed astonishment at the misunderstanding: "The huge gap between the press and Perot makes me understand why so many people believe God is dead and Elvis is alive. The only other situation I have witnessed in which each side had so much mistrust and so bad a misconception of each other is the Arab-Israeli conflict."

Squires, who said he was still on Perot's payroll as an adviser, asserted that the media as a whole did not grasp the fact that "Perot was not so much a candidate as the leader of a crusade."

Perot, Squires continued, was twice talked into active candidacy by his supporters, not with the goal of winning but "in the hope of sending an important message to the country's political establishment. The goal was to restore faith in the political process."

Nevertheless, the speaker lamented, reporters pursued Perot in the same manner as they did George Bush and Bill Clinton, ignoring the fact that the latter two had long political careers as a basis for evaluating them while Perot had none.

"The collision was inevitable and not unexpected," Squires said. "Nothing disturbs the political press more than the defiance of convention. The press did not treat Perot differently than they treat anyone else running for public office. Everyone is brutalized equally in this process."

This meant that Perot, even though he had no political background, was "automatically suspected of concocting a false image whose object was to gain wealth and power or a few minutes of fame," he went on. …

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