BOB GARFIELD: We are back with On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. Ron Ziegler died this week of a heart attack at his home outside San Diego at the age of 63. He'll go down in history, most likely, as the worst-regarded spokesman of the late 20th Century. At the tender age of 29 he was already a long-time supporter of Richard Nixon when he took on the job as his White House press secretary, and for the press he was the de facto face of Watergate. Ziegler's appearances in the press room were marked by stonewalling, and what appeared to be stone cold lying. But his most famous remark is the one he never made. He never actually said that one of his earlier statements was "inoperative," a now-notorious euphemism for lying. In presenting a reversal by the administration he said "That is the operative statement." And when a waggish reporter asked if his earlier assertion was "inoperative," he said yes! Though Ziegler always claimed he was in the loop, as time wore on, he wore down. The stone wall developed cracks. "If my answers sound confusing, he said near the end, I think it's because they are confusing, because the questions are confusing, and the situation is confusing! And I'm not in a position to clarify it." He later claimed that he never knowingly lied to the press, and that's not hard to believe. In recent times, Ziegler has been cited as a possible candidate for "Deep Throat," the source that Woodward and Bernstein so famously relied upon, but that is simply impossible, say the people who knew him best. Ron Ziegler served his president like a soldier, like a bodyguard, and he sacrificed his reputation like a bodyguard lays down his life. Abiding loyalty was in fact Ron Ziegler's greatest strength, but, as history has often shown, loyalty in a bad cause is an even greater weakness. [MUSIC]