Rewind: ABC News Didn't Notice When Laura Bush Helped 'Extreme Makeover' in 2005

While ABC's Good Morning America promoted that "cool lady" Michelle Obama's role in the season debut of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition last Thursday, they failed to notice when Laura Bush pitched in on the same ABC show in 2005 (after George W. Bush's last campaign). It was taped in September, and aired on December 11. Even the show's producers downplayed the cameo as atypical and not worth any hype. (Liberal newspaper types attacked Mrs. Bush for the cameo.) 

On the day of the airing, Richard Huff of the New York Daily News mentioned in the 12th paragraph of an article on the Extreme Makeover show that it would feature James Denton of Desperate Housewives, and oh yes, that wife of the Republican president:

The show's regulars also get assistance along the way from James Denton of "Desperate Housewives" and First Lady Laura Bush. The famous people, [executive producer Tom] Forman says, keep the show fresh.

"It's never going to be a celebrity-driven show," he says. "It's not a place where you're going to come and plug your new album or plug your new movie. Really, it's people who have come because they've heard about the story. They're there to make a great house. You get a sense that the celebrities that pitched in are really there for the right reasons."

Regular watchers of the show know that shark has been jumped. There are now celebrities picking up hammers all the time on the show. Here's some other tepid-to-negative reviews of Mrs. Bush between the taping and airing of the episode:

Rob Walker in The New York Times, December 4, 2005:

''Extreme Makeover: Home Edition'' is one of the highest-rated ''reality'' shows on television; it is part of the reality subgenre that turns on improving the life of a lucky subject -- in this case by remodeling or rebuilding someone's house. It was recently in the news when it was reported that Laura Bush would be making a cameo in an episode scheduled to air next week dealing with hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast. Because the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina raised so many uncomfortable questions about race and class in America, this would seem to be strange ground for a reality show to tread upon. But the truly strange thing is that such issues are recurring -- if very carefully handled -- themes on the show.

Hank Stuever in The Washington Post Magazine, October 23, 2005:

Somewhere in the haze of my Catholic school upbringing, I remember a line from one of the Gospels (Matthew, I think, and if I'm right it's only because the drama club worked so hard on our knockout production of "Godspell") about how, when you do a good deed, you should keep it secret and not shout it boastfully from the mountaintops and in the temple.

These days the mountains have "Hollywood" written on them, and the temple is showbiz, and telegenic saints can't stop telling us how much they're doing for the victims of the gulf hurricanes. "Today" built Habitat for Humanity houses in Rockefeller Plaza to ship to Biloxi, Miss. "Good Morning America" adopted an entire town. In prime time, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" couldn't ask for a more perfect tragedy on which to practice its especially boisterous healing. And, on the face of it, that should be a laudable thing, good enough for first lady Laura Bush to join the well-meaning but possibly dense Ty Pennington and his "Extreme Makeover" crew for an episode in storm-damaged Biloxi.

Columnist Frank Rich on the New York Times op-ed page, October 9, 2005:

The administration's strategy for covering up embarrassing realities with fiction reached its purest expression two weeks ago when both Laura Bush and Karen Hughes were recruited to star in propagandistic television ''reality'' shows. In the first lady's case, this was literally so: she was dispatched to Biloxi to appear in an episode of ABC's ''Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.'' The thinking seems to be that if Mrs. Bush helps one family on a hit reality series, perhaps no one will notice the reality that no-bid contracts and ineptitude have kept hundreds of thousands of other hurricane victims homeless indefinitely while taxpayers foot the bill for unused trailers and cruise ships.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis