Dana Perino, former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush and current co-host of The Five on Fox News, credited Bush for restoring her relationship with her father.
Perino’s parents divorced when she was 28 years old.
“Even though I was an adult, I really had felt abandoned. It sounds weird but it is how it felt, and the president is there so I am telling him everything,” she said at the American Enterprise Institute during a discussion about her new book, And the Good News Is…: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side. “The president knew I hadn’t been in touch with my dad for a while.”
Toward the end of the Bush administration, Perino said her father had not yet come to the White House to see her conduct a briefing in person.
“I wouldn’t call it estranged but it was uncomfortable. President Bush knew all of this,” she recalled.
Perino decided to invite her father to a dinner with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the White House.
“[Justice] Scalia is there and I think it was very overwhelming for my dad. I grew up on a cattle ranch and now he’s here with his daughter at the White House,” she said. “We go through the photo line and just as the military aide was going to announce us, the president says, ‘Oh no, they need no introduction. This is Leo Perino.’ He takes my dad off my hands and says, ‘You want to meet Condi Rice? You want to meet Cheney?’ He goes all around and I say the president gave me back my relationship with my dad.”
In 2005, Perino said she was seated next to then-Sen. Barack Obama during her first Gridiron dinner in Washington.
“He had just been in town for about 2 weeks. He was a new senator and he and I laughed our butts off for four hours. We had so much fun,” she told McCurry.
Perino recalled telling her husband she thought Obama could be president in 20 years.
“I really did say that and so 3 years later, remember, when John McCain suspended his campaign and they came to the White House,” she said. “Senator Obama was shaking hands with everybody and he turns toward me and I went to introduce myself and then he says, ‘Dana Perino.’ I was like, ‘Wow, he even knows who I am. Amazing.’ He’s charming, OK.”
After giving her a big hug, Perino said Obama told her, “That was my favorite night in all of Washington.”
“I’m blushing and [White House Deputy Chief of Staff] Joel Kaplan leans over and he says, ‘What was that all about?’ And I said, ‘I’ll tell you later, but I might just vote for him, too.’”
Former White House press secretary for President Clinton Mike McCurry, who moderated the discussion, said, “But you didn’t.”
“I didn’t,” she replied.
Perino pointed out that she has worked as a co-host of The Five for longer than her previous jobs. She told the audience that it took her a while to get used to giving her own opinion, as opposed to speaking on someone else’s behalf.”
“We have this great chemistry and I think Roger Ailes’ brilliance is he knew that we would,” she said. “It’s really the most fun job I’ve ever had.”