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2003-04-17

The Pentagon, Propaganda & PR: A Look at Victoria Clarke & Margaret Tutwiler and Washington’s Public Relations Campaign On Iraq

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In many ways Victoria Clarke has become the voice of the Pentagon. As the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Clarke oversees daily press briefings. She has also been credited with forming the idea of embedded journalists.

Her ability to spin the news should come as little surprise. Clarke came to the Pentagon after a successful career at PR giant Hill and Knowlton.

You may recall Hill and Knowlton and its role before the first Gulf War. A decade ago, Hill & Knowlton crafted a PR campaign that purposely mislead Congress to help justify the bombing of Iraq.

At a Congressional hearing, Hill and Knowlton represented a woman who testified she saw Iraqi soldiers throw Kuwaiti babies out of hospital incubators. But what Hill and Knowlton didn’t say was that the 15-year-old girl identified as Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and that what she said wasn’t true. She had left Kuwaiti long before the Iraqi soldiers arrived.

The White House has also tapped another PR pro, Margaret Tutwiler, to serve as spokesperson to the Pentagon’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq.

Tutwiler served as the State Department’s spokesperson during the first Gulf War. She also helped shape the media strategy of the Bush/Cheney campaign during the recount of the presidential vote in Florida in 2000. She is currently ambassador to Morocco.

  • Rick MacArthur, publisher of Harpers Magazine and author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War.

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