A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Bush at Ft. Hood


Q: Did President George W. Bush drop everything to visit Ft. Hood victims? Was he ordered away by the Obama administration?

A: Bush did visit the wounded at Ft. Hood, but a Bush spokesman says that his visit was coordinated with base officials and that he was not asked to leave by the White House.

FULL QUESTION

Is the following statement true? I received this e-mail yesterday and have not seen anything about this.

White House asked Geo W to leave Ft. Hood

I sent my cousin in Fayetteville, N.C. (retired from Special Forces) that picture of Geo. W. visiting the wounded at Ft. Hood. I got this reply:

What is even better is the fact George W. Bush heard about Fort Hood, got in his car without any escort, apparently they did not have time to react, and drove to Fort Hood. He was stopped at the gate and the guard could not believe who he had just stopped. Bush only ask for directions to the hospital then drove on.

[EET ]The gate guard called that "The president Is on ‘Fort Hood and driving to the hospital." The base went bananas looking for Obama. When they found it was Bush they immediately offered escort and Bush simply told them to shut up and let him visit the wounded and the dependents of the dead.

 

He stayed at Fort Hood for over six hours and was finally asked to leave by a message from the White House. Obama flew in days later and held a "photo " session in a gym and did not even go to the hospital. All this I picked up from two soldiers here who happened to be at Fort Hood when it happened. – – – -GWBs visit to Ft Hood has been attested to. The WH demand is not assured except by the testimony above by the soldiers.

[/EET]

FULL ANSWER

The e-mail contains a grain of truth. President George W. Bush did visit the wounded at Ft. Hood only a day after the tragic Nov. 5 shooting spree on the base, as was reported publicly at the time by a number of news outlets. But since then, we’ve had a steady stream of queries about this chain e-mail’s description of the visit, in which the author embellishes the facts considerably. Army officials would not comment, so we spoke to Bush spokesman David Sherzer, who was happy to set the record straight.

Sherzer described the visit as being "as spontaneous as a visit from a former president can be" — it was planned that same day. But Sherzer told us that Bush’s visit was coordinated with base officials, that he did not refuse escort, and that he did not overstay his welcome. As for the part about President Obama telling him to leave, Sherzer said that’s simply not true.

Bush’s home in Crawford is a one-hour drive from Ft. Hood, and he did go to the base after being contacted by Ft. Hood’s commanding general, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone. "It is accurate to say he did drop everything to go," Sherzer said, but he added that "we went about it in the appropriate way, which was to coordinate with the base personnel and Secret Service." And Bush stayed for about two hours, not the six the e-mail claims.

Sherzer told us that Lt. Gen. Cone had requested that Bush and Mrs. Bush visit with the wounded and their families, after Bush sent his condolences. The former president was "honored to be able to do that," Sherzer said, but he coordinated with the base to make sure he was coming at an appropriate time. He was not stopped at the gate, as described in the e-mail, because he was expected and because he had a Secret Service escort.

Sherzer emphasized that Bush is very respectful of the Secret Service’s role, which includes escorting him safely from place to place. He does not simply barrel into the car without alerting them, as the e-mail describes. The e-mail also says that Bush told soldiers to "shut up" when they offered him escort. In fact, Sherzer told us, Ft. Hood officials — who knew about his visit in advance — greeted Bush when he arrived and escorted him throughout the visit. "He would never do anything like what’s described in that e-mail," said Sherzer, of the claims that Bush rebuffed protection.

Finally, Bush was not sent away by Obama. "The part about being asked to leave by the White House is completely false," Sherzer told us. Bush spent about two hours at the base and left, Sherzer said, because he did not want to take resources or time away from those who were helping the victims and families.

As for the claim that Obama did not visit the hospital, the White House sent us press reports showing that Obama visited both ambulatory and non-ambulatory victims, and the families of the dead on Nov. 10, though much of the visit was not public. The e-mail is correct that this was several days after Bush’s visit on Nov. 6. But it’s not the case that Obama never went to the hospital.

–Jess Henig

 

Sources

Sherzer, David. Interview with FactCheck.org. 11 Feb 2010.