Former President Bush Zings NY Times and Woodward's 'Kitty Kelley Journalism'

Interviewed by ABC's Charles Gibson at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia shortly before receiving, along with former President Clinton, the center's “Liberty Award,” former President George H.W. Bush zinged the New York Times and Bob Woodward. In an excerpt aired on Thursday's World News, Bush 41 fretted how “there's a lot of Bush-bashing” of his son with “a lot of people out there that have nothing good to say.” Bush then marveled: “I can't remember the New York Times ever writing anything positive about our son."

When Gibson raised how Bob Woodward, in his new book about the Iraq war, State of Denial, “quotes Mrs. Bush as having said that you were losing sleep over whether that was the right thing to do, and your feeling that perhaps it was not,” the former President rejected the accuracy of the premise: “In that incident, it was a conversation that Barbara allegedly had with David Boren,” the former Democratic Senator from Oklahoma, “who has sent me a letter saying it didn't take place. That's a Kitty Kelley journalism in my view, and he can get away with it,” Bush regretted, because “he's a very famous journalist.”

A portion of the interview aired on the October 5 World News with Charles Gibson, which Gibson anchored from outside the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia a while after conducting the interview inside the facility:
Charles Gibson: “Tell me which is harder: To be President and to be subjected to the criticisms that come with the job, or to watch your son be subjected to those same criticisms?”

George H.W. Bush: “It's not a close call. Far worse is watching your son come under fire. Far worse. And it's not even a close call. It's not even a close call, when you're responsible for your own acts, when you're President, you take it. Now, I'm just as sentimental, and you know, father who doesn't like it when his kids are criticized. And it comes with the -- I'm not saying it doesn't go with the territory. But you know there's a lot of Bush-bashing, there's a lot of people out there that have nothing good to say about it. I'd hate to single out a newspaper for example but, I can't remember the New York Times ever writing anything positive about our son.”
[In the transcript posted by ABCNews.com, Bush continued: “And every, we all know that it's a very liberal paper and all of that. But it's, Barbara says, 'why do you read it, why do you sit in here complaining all morning?' I say I just wanna get it out of the way. And, but it hurts far worse when, when your son is criticized than when I used to be.”]
Gibson: “What rankles you the most?”

Bush: “I think it's criticizing him as a person. And it started off that he was a dumb guy. Here's a guy who graduated from Harvard Business School, Yale University, did a good job in both, and for some reason the press picked up that he was dumb. And it just burned me up to a fare-thee-well.”

Gibson: “Bob Woodward has written a new book which goes back to the time when the war was beginning, and quotes Mrs. Bush as having said that you were losing sleep over whether that was the right thing to do, and your feeling that perhaps it was not.”

Bush: “I'm familiar with this, I haven't read the book, and I don't think I'm going to read the book. But in that incident, it was a conversation that Barbara allegedly had with David Boren-”

Gibson: “Senator Boren.”

Bush: “-who has sent me a letter saying it didn't take place. That's a Kitty Kelley journalism in my view, and he can get away with it, he's a very famous journalist.”
[The online transcript, which spells misspells Boren as “Borin,” does not have Bush saying “who has sent me a letter saying it didn't take place.” But the transcript provides this continuation of Bush's assessment of Woodward: “There's no accountability to name sources. And I, I'm sorry, I don't think it's first-class. And I've -- I think I passed that along to Bob Woodward long before this came out. I like the guy, have a very pleasant personal relationship when I see him but I don't like that kind of journalism. Putting quotes on a per -- you know, that's just literary license, that's just liberty. That's not what I think, if you're gonna quote somebody, you gotta name who it is and say -- and if they're in quotes, or even the main principle of the thought, you oughta be prepared to stand behind it.”]
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center