During an interview with President George H.W. Bush’s granddaughters, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush, on Wednesday’s Today show, co-host Savannah Guthrie observed: “Even as little kids, Jenna and Barbara were painfully aware of the criticism their grandfather faced, but still, they knew the man behind the presidency.”
Bush Hager, a Today show correspondent, specifically remembered the infamous cover of Newsweek magazine that labeled her grandfather, a World War II hero, as a “wimp”: “When we lived here in D.C., when we were in elementary school, we have this vivid memory of going to the grocery store, I was with my mom, and saw the cover of Newsweek that said ‘Wimp’ and it had a picture of my grandpa next to it. It confused me, it confused us, because he was the antithesis of a wimp.”
She continued by offering these loving words:
He was somebody that showed us that family matters. He never was looking at work when we were next to him. He was present. He played with us. He made us feel special. He spoke softly and he didn’t speak about himself, he was humble. But why did that have to equate to being a wimp? And it didn’t to us. He was our hero.
Earlier on the morning show, even veteran NBC News journalists Andrea Mitchell and Tom Brokaw admitted how badly Newsweek, and the media generally, treated Bush.
Guthrie wondered: “We all know that President Bush did not care for the legacy discussion....But when you look at it, Andrea, what do you think – how do you think we’ll measure this presidency?” Mitchell replied: “Well, I think history is treating him already far better than we in the media and the public, perhaps, appreciated him when he ended his presidency.”
Moments later, Brokaw noted: “I heard yesterday from the former editor of Newsweek, Evan Thomas, who had that famous cover, ‘The Wimp Factor’....he said, ‘Boy, were we wrong.’” Brokaw added: “That was one of the times that I remember that President Bush was really unhappy with how he had been treated, because it was unfair.”
In fact, Thomas wrote an op/ed following Bush’s passing admitting that he was wrong to publish the cover.
Guthrie observed: “I believe he [Bush] told his biographer that that Newsweek cover was the ‘cheapest of cheap shots’ against him. It hurt.” Brokaw reiterated: “Yeah, and that was one of the few times he really complained about his treatment.”
Mitchell remarked: “Yeah, but he was so forgiving. And the fact that he, you know, didn’t blame the media. It hurt a lot, but he had humor and he was self-deprecating...”
During special coverage on Monday, NBC reporters noted how “fake news” about Bush supposedly being out of touch with supermarket scanner technology “still ended up in the obituaries.”
On NewsBusters Monday, Media Research Center Research Director Rich Noyes compiled an extensive list of numerous other media attacks hurled at Bush leading up to and throughout his presidency.
When Republicans are in office, the liberal media savage them. Only years later in retirement or death do the press suddenly offer kind words or express regret for the harshness of their coverage. Maybe journalists should spend this week reflecting on why that’s the case.
Here is a transcript of Guthrie’s December 5 exchange with Mitchell and Brokaw:
7:07 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We all know that President Bush did not care for the legacy discussion. He certainly didn’t want to have it for himself. But when you look at it, Andrea, what do you think – how do you think we’ll measure this presidency?
ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, I think history is treating him already far better than we in the media and the public, perhaps, appreciated him when he ended his presidency. And he was very, you know, distraught, of course, at the loss to Bill Clinton. But the fact is, the gentility, the decency – despite his political instincts, he was very competitive in that 1988 campaign, it should not be airbrushed – but the fact is, that there was a fundamental kindness and gentility about the man.
And the sense of public service. When we talk about the points of light and that metaphor for his volunteerism, that really defined his life. Twice taking assignments that he thought would take him away from the political ambition that he had, once in China, once at the CIA. Actually, three times, another time at the Republican Committee, right after Watergate.
TOM BROKAW: I heard yesterday from the former editor of Newsweek, Evan Thomas, who had that famous cover, “The Wimp Factor.”
BROKAW: And he said, “You know, we showed him in a variety of ways inside, doing a lot of stuff.” You know, he was out on the golf course, he was driving his motorboat. And then he said, “Boy, were we wrong.” Evan Thomas did. That was one of the times that I remember that President Bush was really unhappy with how he had been treated, because it was unfair. He was a man of great vigor, but he was not anybody who wanted to draw attention to himself. He was a very loyal vice president to President Bush – to President Reagan. So –
GUTHRIE: I believe he told his biographer that that Newsweek cover was the “cheapest of cheap shots” against him. It hurt.
BROKAW: Yeah, and that was one of the few times he really complained about his treatment.
MITCHELL: Yeah, but he was so forgiving. And the fact that he, you know, didn’t blame the media. It hurt a lot, but he had humor and he was self-deprecating and he took credit for the failures, but collectively said, “Well, we did some things right. I made some mistakes.” So he always shared the credit and took for himself the blame.