WASHINGTON – The White House on Sunday acknowledged the authenticity of the first photograph made public that shows President Bush and embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, while stressing it does not mean the two had a personal relationship.
The photo, published by The New York Times and Time magazine, shows Bush shaking hands with an Abramoff client, chairman Raul Garza of the Kickapoo Indian tribe in Texas. Abramoff's bearded face appears in the background, small and slightly blurry.
White House spokesman Allen Abney said the photo was taken in 2001, when the president dropped by a meeting of about two dozen state legislators to thank them for supporting tax relief.
Originally, the White House said it had no record of Abramoff's attendance at the meeting.
"We now know that Mr. Abramoff attended this meeting," Abney said Sunday. "The president has taken tens of thousands of pictures. This does not mean he has a personal relationship with each individual that is in those pictures."
The White House would not release the photo or any others that Bush had taken with Abramoff, who helped raise more than $100,000 for the president's re-election campaign. Abramoff has since pleaded guilty to federal charges related to an influence-peddling scandal on Capitol Hill.
Bush has said that he had his picture taken with Abramoff an unknown number of times, but he doesn't remember any of them.