By Brian Flood
Published December 03, 2018
Media missteps in the coverage of former President George H.W. Bush's death -- from a derogatory Associated Press tweet to the Gray Lady including misleading info in its obituary -- have fueled new accusations of liberal bias.
While several publications and media figures used Bush’s death to take shots at President Trump, even some standard obituaries were panned as slanted and unfair.
The AP notably backed off a widely criticized tweet sent shortly after Bush’s death was confirmed. The now-deleted message said: “George H.W. Bush, a patrician New Englander whose presidency soared with the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, but then plummeted in the throes of a weak economy that led voters to turn him out of office after a single term, has died. He was 94."
The AP eventually deleted the tweet and admitted the gaffe.
“We’ve deleted a tweet and revised a story on the death of President George H.W. Bush because the tweet and the opening of the story referenced his 1992 electoral defeat and omitted his WWII service,” the AP wrote.
But it was too late in the eyes of some critics. "The AP would have never made that mistake if George H.W. Bush was a Democrat,” Daily Wire reporter Ryan Saavedra wrote.
“It took 2 days for someone at the @AP to realize their story on Bush was biased garbage,” Daily Caller’s Derek Hunter added.
Far-left website Slate complained that Bush’s obituaries didn’t include groping allegations made against Bush during the final years of his life when he was confined to a wheelchair.
The majority of the mainstream media’s coverage has been respectful.
But Bush’s death gave some media members an excuse to dust off criticism of the infamous Willie Horton ad, which Fox News’ Brit Hume reminded viewers was actually put out by a third-party group. And The New York Times took heat for its obituary, which included an infamous photo of Bush at a supermarket checkout aisle along with a widely disputed anecdote. The Times wrote, “His critics saw him as out of touch with ordinary Americans, pointing to what they portrayed as his amazed reaction during a demonstration of a supermarket scanner when he visited a grocers’ convention while president.”
The paper also noted that Bush “later insisted that he had not been surprised” by the supermarket scanner.
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson mocked the paper, tweeting that students of journalism will recall that the Times “made up the story about Bush being amazed.”
Times reporter Andrew Rosenthal, who would later oversee the paper’s opinion section, famously painted Bush as out of touch with reality in a 1992 front page story about the president being some sort of elitist who had never been grocery shopping. The story, “Bush Encounters the Supermarket, Amazed,” said Bush “lived the cloistered life of a top Washington bureaucrat for decades” and had “trouble presenting himself to the electorate as a man in touch with middle-class life.”
Rosenthal also wrote that Bush “emerged from 11 years in Washington's choicest executive mansions to confront the modern supermarket,” and made sure to mention that some supermarkets had the technology as early as 1976.
However, the story was condemned by media watchdogs who noticed the Times didn’t actually have a reporter present at the supermarket convention and the White House even said the entire thing was manufactured by the media.
After witnesses chalked up Bush’s expression to simply being polite, Fox News’ Howard Kurtz called it “the story that won’t check out” in the Washington Post back in 1992, noting that the pool reporter didn’t even mention the incident in his own story. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg wrote in 2008 that the Times “took it upon itself to offer a politically devastating misinterpretation unsupported by any participants or witnesses.”
The Times was condemned for including the supermarket tidbit in the Bush obit and NewsBusters even published a breakdown headlined, “Times’ George H.W. Bush obituary can’t avoid fake news about supermarket scanner” that notes the otherwise respectful obit was “marred by the inclusion of a liberal media legend” that lives on.
“It was a phony anecdote forwarded by reporter Andrew Rosenthal (who wasn’t even there) to paint the first Bush as an out-of-touch patrician,” NewsBuster’s Clay Waters wrote. “Rosenthal… relied on a brief pool report to conjure up the anecdote.”
Goldberg tweeted Saturday that the Times "should be ashamed of itself reviving this canard the morning after he died."