Fox's Dana Perino debunked the right-wing media's attempt to manufacture a scandal around former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's new memoir by claiming that the book reveals that the Obama administration had asked him to lie to the American public.
On May 12 Geithner debuted his new memoir, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, detailing his time as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as Treasury Secretary under the Obama administration during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
The book's excerpts promptly became fodder for right-wing media outlets, which latched onto two specific anecdotes to declare that the White House had directed Geithner to lie during appearances on the Sunday political talk shows.
At issue is Geithner's description of a prep session for the Sunday political shows in 2011 in which then-communications director Dan Pfeiffer asked him to state that Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. Geithner wrote how he had objected to the phrasing, because "[i]t wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute."
Because of these anecdotes, Geithner's book represents a "new bombshell," according to Fox News, one that may show "the White House playing politics with the American people, perhaps." America's Newsroom anchor Martha MacCallum claimed:
MacCALLUM: Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has a book. In it -- the excerpts have been released today -- he says that the White House asked him to go a Sunday show and say something that was not completely true, because it worked better for them politically. That is what is being suggested here.
But later the same day, on The Five, co-host Dana Perino, who previously served as press secretary under President George W. Bush, responded to allegations from her co-hosts that the White House had asked Geithner to lie. Perino explained that the way Geithner was asked to to discuss Social Security made sense "from a communications standpoint":
PERINO: I can actually understand the Geithner thing. It's like saying, "Hey, can you not try to say this point about Social Security?" I don't think that is asking Geithner to specifically lie. I can understand from a communications standpoint you're asking the principle and the policy person, "How far can you go to say X,Y, or Z?"
Fox News also quoted from "a source close to Geithner" who pointed out that he "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows":
After the anecdote began to generate attention on Monday, a source close to Geithner clarified to Fox News that the former secretary "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows."
The source said all the former secretary was trying to get across was that Pfeiffer wanted him to "send a signal" to liberals about the president's commitment to not allowing major cuts to Social Security.