Former White House staffer, UMass alum to speak at flagship

  • Robert ‘Bob’ Weiner

Staff Writer
Published: 10/4/2022 3:49:49 PM

AMHERST — There’s been plenty of talk in the last few years about threats to democracy in the U.S., especially following the attack on the U.S. Capitol building in January 2021 by Donald Trump supporters and Trump’s continued claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Just last month, President Joe Biden warned that democracy was threatened by the rise of authoritarianism in much of the Republican Party: “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundation of our republic.” Republican leaders countered that Biden had slandered tens of millions of Republican voters in his remarks.

Just how deep are these threats? Journalist Robert “Bob” Weiner, a University of Massachusetts graduate and a former White House staffer, will give his take when he returns to UMass on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in a talk that will consider the Nixon Watergate scandal, the Whitewater investigation and impeachment of Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Weiner, who received a master’s in history from UMass in 1974, is a longtime journalist and editorial writer who recently won the Washington D.C. National Press Club President’s Award for his program recruiting young journalists as op-ed writers in major papers.

He also has a long resume in politics that began in the early 1970s when he worked for U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and became the first National Youth Voter Registration Coordinator at the Democratic National Committee.

He later became the spokesman for the House Narcotics Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Government Operations Committee. From 1995 through August 2001, he was the chief of press relations and director of public affairs for the White House Office of Drug Policy.

During the Clinton administration, Weiner was subpoenaed by Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr, and following his testimony was interviewed by several national TV news programs; at that time he said his experience with Starr was “Big Brother at its worst.”

The Oct. 6 presentation, titled “Is American Democracy Going Backward?” is free and takes place in room 601 at Herter Hall. Weiner will be joined by UMass history professor Daniel Gordon for the talk. Questions will be welcomed afterward; a virtual option for viewing the talk will be available at

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at

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