- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dana Perino, the face of the Bush administration for the past two years, followed her boss off the stage Friday morning with a final news conference, another incremental step toward Tuesday’s inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

The 21-minute affair began with a light-hearted goodbye slideshow by Mrs. Perino, who by turns thanked and roasted the press and also paid tribute to her predecessor at the podium, Tony Snow, who died of cancer last year.

Mrs. Perino, in what she said was her 145th briefing, took questions that mostly asked her to reflect on her time at the podium, but also a few on the conflict in Gaza, which she mostly deflected to the State Department.

And she gave best wishes to her successor, Robert Gibbs, who will assume her duties as White House press secretary Tuesday.

“Please go easy on him,” she said, pausing before adding, “for a week.”

When asked whether she perceived a bias in the media against the president, she said, “I don’t think I would always be asked about my feelings about liberal bias in the media if there wasn’t any liberal bias in the media.”

She added that “people that are covering the president out of here, and the presidency, strive so hard to be fair … [E]verybody in this room on a scale of 10, I give you a nine.”

But she said the rise of punditry and commentary has combined with falling revenues to threaten the health of journalism.

“I don’t think that journalism is dead, but I think that we all have a responsibility to make sure that it survives,” she said. “Let’s hope someone figures out a business model to keep you all in your seats.”

Mrs. Perino is leaving the country Tuesday, after Mr. Obama is sworn in, with her husband, Peter McMahon, for a six-week trip. In February, she said, the couple will do some volunteer work in Cape Town, South Africa, at a project funded by the president’s HIV/AIDS relief program.

“I want to go and experience it firsthand and see how American tax dollars are being put to good use and come back and talk about it,” she said.

At the beginning of the briefing, Mrs. Perino showed a series of pictures of reporters and photographers at the White House and traveling with the president, and read a short humorous speech to accompany the photographs.

The last picture of Mr. Snow showed White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten tying a World Wrestling Entertainment belt around Mr. Snow’s waist in the Oval Office as the president watched, in a playful moment among men tasked with making weighty decisions each day.

“When Tony lost his valiant battle against cancer last summer,” Mrs. Perino said. “We all lost a world champion.”

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