BuzzFeed analysis pegs Clinton press secretaries as most evasive

Press secretaries during President Bill Clinton's administration used more evasive language than any other White House chief communicator since 1993, according to a BuzzFeed analysis.

Press secretaries during President Bill Clinton’s administration used more evasive language than any other White House chief communicator since 1993, according to a BuzzFeed analysis.

The analysis showed that four out of five of Clinton’s former press secretaries, including George Stephanopoulos, Dee Dee Myers, Jake Siewert, and Joe Lockhart, used the most "weasel phrases," such as "I can’t comment on," or "I don’t know," while they held the position.

Buzzfeed analyzed more than 5,000 press briefings from the American Presidency Project and found that Stephanopoulos used 12.5 weasel phrases per 1,000 words, while Myers clocked in at 11. Siewert ranked at 10.9, and Joe Lockhart came in with 8.2 per 1,000 words.

Mike McCurry, however, who served as press secretary to Clinton from 1994 to 1999, only used 6 weasel phrases per 1,000 words, according to the analysis.

The newest press secretary, Josh Earnest, currently uses 4.6 weasel phrases per 1,000 words two months into the job. His favorite phrases at the moment are reportedly "there are some," "have any comment," and "refer you to."

Ari Fleischer, who was named George W. Bush’s press secretary in January 2001, used BuzzFeed’s so-called weasel phrases in a tweet Wednesday morning:

While former Obama press secretary Jay Carney ranked ninth, using 5.6 weasel phrases per 1,000 words at press briefings, BuzzFeed says he ranked second when it came to usage of the phrase "refer you to," behind only Dana Perino, who served during the Bush administration.

BuzzFeed included a clip of some of Carney’s greatest hits CNN complied when his resignation was announced.

Some trends noted by Buzzfeed include that press secretaries became more evasive between 2001 and 2009; they "have gradually become more direct" during the Obama administration; and the phrase "I don’t know" has been used the most across the board.  

In June, experts told PRWeek how important the press briefing remains, even in a 24-hour, "always on" news cycle.

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