By Raoul Lowery Contreras
Ron Ziegler was a friend of mine. I met him when he was at the University of Southern California and I was attending San Diego State. Young Republicans both, we went on to work together in the 1962 campaign of Richard Nixon for California governor.
Ziegler started working for the campaign’s press secretary, former San Diego Union Editor Herb Klein, after graduating for USC in 1961. Nixon had just lost the Presidency to John F. Kennedy in 1960. He then lost the gubernatorial election to Pat Brown, announcing to the press that they wouldn’t have “Nixon to kick around any more.”
Eight years later, Nixon is running for President again, this time to win. Ziegler became Nixon’s press secretary at the tender age of 29. I was the 27-year-old public relations director for northern Mexico’s largest business with offices in San Diego. I also carried suitcases full of cash from rich San Diego donors to the Nixon campaign.
Ziegler had no journalistic experience when he became press secretary. Experience was provided by Klein, who became Nixon’s communications director. Klein’s wife worked on Mrs. Nixon’s personal staff.
Whenever word reached my employer that a Nixon appointee had asked to talk with me, my employer would intervene and write a check to Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign and give me a raise. So, I never left for a Washington office; I was making too much money and I calculated that I would join up after the 1972 reelection anyway as a resume builder.
Ziegler’s lack of experience and 1,000-percent loyalty to Nixon caught up with him when the President floundered over Watergate. Ron will always be remembered for labeling the Nixon-scuttling Watergate incident a “third-rate burglary.”
It goes without saying that Ziegler was at that point the least honest, least experienced press secretary in history, one who was overwhelmed by Nixon’s political suicide. He was my friend, but a terrible press secretary, perhaps the worst ever — until now.
Ziegler lied so often hardly anything he said in defense of Nixon and the administration was greeted without derision. And laughter.
Fast forward to 2017. President Donald Trump had to fire his first press secretary, Sean Spicer, the second worst in history, who irritated everyone, including Trump, by his specious over-aggressive presentation and outright lying. Enter Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the only daughter of former Arkansas Governor and failed Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Elevated from her assistant press secretary job to replace Sean Spicer in the $176,461 salaried job, she immediately commenced lying to the press and the public.
Her biggest lie: asserting that President Trump did not write or dictate a statement about Donald Trump Jr.’s conspiratorial meeting with Russian intelligence-connected people in Trump Tower in June 2016. When she made that assertion, she also added that Trump did “weigh in” on the release’s preparation like any father would.
Unbeknownst to her, apparently, and to the rest of us, two Washington lawyers and their staffs concocted a letter to special prosecutor Robert Mueller dated January 2018 in which they clearly stated that the President did, in fact, dictate the release in question about the meeting with Russian operatives.
When questioned on June 4, 2018, about which version is true, hers from last year or that of the lawyer’s letter in January, she said that she wouldn’t comment on a letter prepared by outside lawyers.
Huckabee Sanders lied about that event to protect her boss, President Trump. The lawyers’ letter proves beyond doubt she lied.
She constantly lies, and everyone can see through her lies, especially when her version of events and statements are contravened by the President or his lawyers. Never mind that the President has lied, exaggerated, hyped or shaded the truth at every opportunity, Sanders also lies, punts and otherwise disgraces herself and degrades her honesty every time she addresses the press and us.
I never thought I would say this, but Ron Ziegler is no longer the worst presidential press secretary. He barely makes third position now, after 500 days of Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
She is the last person I would hire for any job that deals with news and events.
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant and the author of “The Armenian Lobby & American Foreign Policy” and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade.” His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.
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