Merrie Spaeth

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Merrie Spaeth was born on August 23, 1948, in Philadelphia, PA. She received her B.A. degree, with honors, from Smith College in 1970, and from the Columbia Graduate School of Business in 1980. [1]

Spaeth is "the public relations consultant representing" Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT). "According to CBS television news, election commission records [reveal that Spaeth] gave the maximum possible £2,000 donation" [sic] to the Bush-Cheney '04 Inc. re-election campaign in June 2003. [2] (Note: The actual amount was probably $2,000, not £2,000.)

Her role with the SBVT attack on Kerry prompted the Kerry campaign to allege that she previously played a role in attempting to discredit John McCain in the Republican presidential primary in 2000. Spaeth told National Review that she was approached to provide phone support after the two Texas millionaires Sam and Charles Wyly, created the front group Republicans for Clean Air to attack McCains environmental policies.

Spaeth said that she agreed to field press inquiries for the group. It "turned out to be the biggest mistake, at least one of the top five," of her life, she said. "I regret being involved in any way," she said. [3]

Spaeth, founder of Spaeth Communications, Inc., "served as a White House Fellow and was assigned to FBI Director William Webster. She was the first Fellow and one of the first two women on the director's staff. From the FBI, she served two years at the Federal Trade Commission as director of public affairs, and in 1983, President Ronald Reagan named her director of media relations at the White House. Merrie introduced satellite communications to the White House, and the electronic White House News Service. One newspaper headline said she 'took the White House into the Space Age.' [4]

A biographical note on Spaeth, posted to a speakers bureau she works for, states that she was selected "as the communications coach for Independant Counsel Ken Starr, as he begins his testimony before congress." [5]

As a teenage actor, Spaeth worked with Peter Sellers and Angela Lansbury in The World of Henry Orient. In an interview with Inc magazine, Spaeth says that what she learned from Sellers and Lansbury "was the quality of continual reinvention."

Describing the philosophy of her company, Spaeth said "We reinvent ourselves to solve a client's problem. It's more than just tweaking, and it's not something along the lines of Hammer's reengineering. It's rethinking what your audience wants and needs. Isn't that what great actors constantly do?" [6]

Spaeth is listed with Leading Authorities, a Washington D.C. speakers bureau, as available for events at a fee of between $5,000 and $10,000. Her preferred topics, her listing states, includes "White House Secrets in Managing the Media" and "Crisis Communication and Beyond." [7]

Writing in Salon, Joe Conason described her as "among the most experienced and best connected Republican communications executives. During the Reagan administration she served as director of the White House Office of Media Liaison, where she specialized in promoting 'news' items that boosted President Reagan to TV stations around the country. While living in Washington she met and married Tex Lezar, a Reagan Justice Department lawyer who ran for lieutenant governor of Texas in 1994 with George W. Bush, then the party's candidate for governor. (Lezar lost; Bush won.)." [8]

According to her biographical profile "she has worked in every area of print and electronic media. She's been a radio and television talk show host, a reporter and writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Daily News, and a producer for ABC's "20/20." For several years, she wrote a weekly column on personal finance and investing called "Your Finances" that was featuredin Family Weekly (later USA Today Sunday Magazine. Her first book Marketplace Communication (MasterMedia) is a collection of her commentaries on "Marketplace," the daily business show on public radio stations across the country. Today, she writes a weekly column for UPI on communication challenges facing businesses, and she is a regular commentator on public radio and television."

According to her biographical note, Spaeth was also a speechwriter for the legendary William S. Paley, chairman of CBS.

"She has lectured in the Global Executives program at the Wharton School, the graduate school of business for the University of Pennsylvania, and is an Adjunct Professor at the Business Leadership Center in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. She also regularly lectures to participants of the business executive program at the University of Birmingham, England. Board memberships include Saxon Publishing, which publishes the nation’s most effective math and reading textbooks, and Pose Tech, which seeks to teach the world to run without injuries. Charitable board memberships include the National Children’s Eye Care Foundation and the Law Enforcement Television Network (LETN). Her firm commits between 5 and 10 percent of its time each year to pro bono training for civic and charitable organizations," it states.

Spaeth on PR

In 1996 PR Watch reported that Spaeth, issues a "Bimbo Award" ridiculing news sources who make stupid denials that cause their audience to believe exactly the opposite of what they say.

"We had more 'bimbos' in 1995 than ever before," Spaeth said in giving out last year's award to Time Warner, whose "Jenny Jones" show invited a male guest to appear and meet his "secret admirer." After the admirer turned out to be another man, the enraged guest shot and killed him, prompting a Time Warner spokesperson to state, "No one was lied to. No one was misled." Spaeth may want to give herself the award for 1996. In the February issue of Public Relations Tactics, she expressed annoyance at "pot shots taken by journalists at public relations people." As an example, she cited press coverage given to Nigeria's hiring of several PR firms in an attempt to clean up its image after executing eight human rights and environmental activists. "The article made clear that 'PR' meant fluff and cover-up without any real change," Spaeth complained.[9]

Spaeth writes a regular column for United Press International on communication issues. In a June 2003 column she warned that crisis management consultants, like generals, were best prepared to "fight the last war".

"The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill spawned a methodology of crisis management that dictated that a company or organization immediately and proactively own up to a problem, and that the chief executive officer himself step forward. This is much too simple, and it can be bad advice," she wrote.

Spaeth recounted an instance where she had advised a hospital client where two patients diagnoses had been mixed up - and quietly settled out of court - public disclosure would not serve the public interest. She then went on to state that "when advising companies, I first ask, 'Will this information get out anyway, and if so, then you must get in control by announcing it yourself. And your spokesmen and women need to have the expertise or stature to convince your important audiences that you care, you have correctly analyzed the situation, and you are acting quickly, appropriately and with integrity'," she wrote.

The need for transparency, she advised, has its limits. "Sometimes, even if one is reasonably certain the information will not leak out, the moral course of action is to announce it. The key word is 'sometimes.' A consultant needs to bring good judgment and courage, not rote lessons," she wrote.[10]

In a May 2004 commentary, Spaeth reflecting on an article in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail, rhetorically asked "does PR need some PR?".

While defending PR, she conceded the industry had a problem. "It must be admitted that PR has contributed to its own problems by those individuals who place themselves in the public eye and say things they know aren't true, or who go along with the CEO or the lawyers rather than jeopardize a large retainer. Yet, do not lawyers similarly say truly bizarre things in public and give their clients awful advice?," she wrote.

"Public relations -- again, understanding, communicating and maintaining relationships -- is a critical function of an organization. It deserves respect," she concluded.[11]

Ronald Reagan Conservative Society

Spaeth is one of the founders and a member of the board of directors of the Ronald Reagan Conservative Society. [12]

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