This may be the exchange she was referring to:



It was another case of “Oh, Dana” when Perino, no longer press secretary, appeared on Fox News last year and declared, “We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.”

3. Tony Snow and the “tar baby,” May 2006.

A popular and polished press secretary, the late Tony Snow made perhaps his biggest boo-boo in only his first televised press conference. In response to a question about domestic spying, Snow said:

I don’t want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program, the alleged program, the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny.

You can see it at about three minutes into this video…



When asked by a reporter to put the phrase “tar baby” into English, Snow replied, “…we could trace that back to American lore.” Some said that Snow was given a pass on using a phrase the Times wrote, “carries vague racist connotations — it has been used as a derogatory term for a black.” But our own Edward B. Colby noted that bloggers came down hard. Think Progress published a memorandum to the freshman press secretary and former Fox man:

Based on the context of the term, we believe you meant tar baby to mean: “a situation almost impossible to get out of; a problem virtually unsolvable.”

But in “American lore,” the expression tar baby is also a racial slur “used occasionally as a derogatory term for black people.” Use of the term has resulted in demands that people be fired.

As Random House notes, “some people suggest avoiding the use of the term in any context.” Now that you are no longer at Fox News, you may want to take them up on their advice.

It wasn’t enough to “tar”nish Snow’s rep (I know, I know) and, just two months later, after the mini scandal had faded, it was not enough to stop Mitt Romney from making the same mistake.

Well, as they say in our profession, three’s a trend. That’s a start to what could be a mammoth list. We’d encourage you all to jot down your favorite memories of press secretaries “being human,” flubbing their lines, or flat-out lying. While you’re thinking, we leave you with these final words from everyone’s favorite White House spokesperson.

“It’s a classic Washington scandal. We got in trouble for telling the truth.”

Thank you, C.J. Cregg.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.