Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush and prominent right-wing pundit, was secretly involved in the Komen Foundation’s strategy regarding Planned Parenthood. Fleischer personally interviewed candidates for the position of “Senior Vice President for Communications and External Relations” at Komen last December. According to a source with first-hand knowledge, Fleischer drilled prospective candidates during their interviews on how they would handle the controversy about Komen’s relationship with Planned Parenthood.
Fleischer’s relationship with Komen and the Planned Parenthood controversy was previously undisclosed. He confirmed to ThinkProgress his recent role in filling a key communication position at Komen. Fleischer stressed, however, another communications firm (Ogilvy PR) was retained by Komen to deal with crisis communications over the last few days and he has not been involved.
In November, Komen advertised for a top level communications position in Roll Call. Promising applicants received a call from Fleischer. The advertisement is no longer posted on the Roll Call website, but a portion is accessible via Google:
According to a source, during at least one interview, Planned Parenthood was a major topic of conversation. Fleischer indicated that he had discussed the Planned Parenthood issue with Komen’s CEO, Nancy Brinker, and that she was at her wits end about how to proceed. Fleischer described himself as a longtime friend of Brinker.
Fleischer confirmed to ThinkProgress that he would receive a fee from Komen when the search is complete. Fleischer did not specify the amount of his fee but said it would be “substantially below the normal placement fee charged by executive search companies” because “they’re a charity I believe in.”
Fleischer’s high-level involvement with Komen further complicates its image as an apolitical cancer charity. Fleischer is a prominent partisan commentator and a longtime critic of Planned Parenthood. In his book, Taking Heat, Fleischer criticized Planned Parenthood as a partisan, ideological organization that receives undeserved positive coverage in the press. In 2001, Fleischer said that the Clinton administration verged too far to the left on family planning efforts because “if Planned Parenthood wanted it, the previous administration favored it.”
A copy of the full listing for the position Fleischer was working to fill for Komen is still available here.