A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Shaking the Bushes for Quote About Trump


Q: Did George W. Bush say he doesn’t approve of the media’s treatment of Donald Trump?

A: No. That statement is based on a misrepresentation of what the former president said a year ago.

FULL ANSWER

Former President George W. Bush hasn’t said much publicly about President Donald Trump.

But something he did say a year ago while he was promoting his book “Portraits of Courage” has been taken out of context and used to falsely convey his statements about the current president.

A story using a quote from a “Today” show interview is circulating on Facebook under the headline: “George W. Bush Breaks Silence With Incredible Statement About President Trump.”

Users of the social media site flagged the story as potentially false. It is.

The story, which was published on Feb. 26, 2018, quotes an interview Bush did with NBC’s Matt Lauer on Feb. 27, 2017, shortly after Trump took office.

Although the story implies that the statement came from a recent interview, Lauer hasn’t worked at the “Today” show since November 2017, when he was fired in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.

In the interview, Lauer had asked Bush to compare the divisions in the country when he took office in 2001 to the divisions in the country following the 2016 elections and to talk about the likelihood of unifying the country.

Bush answered: “It’s hard to unify the country, though, with the news media being so split up.”

He went on, looking at Lauer, “When I was president, you know, you mattered a lot more. Because there was, like, three of you, and now there’s all kinds of information being bombarded out and people can say things anonymously — it’s just a different world.”

That’s the quote that the false story used.

After that, it claimed: “He confirmed how dishonest the mainstream media can be and publicly said that he doesn’t approve of what they have been saying about Donald Trump.”

Bush didn’t say anything like that, though.

In the actual interview, Lauer followed up by asking, “Did you ever consider the media to be the enemy of the American people?”

Bush answered: “I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.”

That’s a far cry from what the false story claims Bush said.

It’s also not the first story to distort that quote.

There have been several similarly misleading stories, going back as far as July 2017. A spate of them were published in the fall, around the time that Bush gave a speech that was widely considered to be critical of Trump.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label false stories flagged by readers on the social media network.

Sources

George W. Bush Breaks Silence With Incredible Statement About President Trump.” USAlifestyledream.com. 26 Feb 2018.

“Today.” “George W. Bush on President Trump, Putin, religious freedom, immigration, more.” NBC. 27 Feb 2017.

Stelter, Brian and Kludt, Tom. “NBC fires Matt Lauer after complaint about ‘inappropriate sexual behavior.’” CNN. 29 Nov 2017.

Barabak, Mark. “In stunning attack, George W. Bush accuses President Trump of promoting falsehoods and prejudice.” Los Angeles Times. 19 Oct 2017.

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Former President George W. Bush “confirmed how dishonest the mainstream media can be.”
Monday, February 26, 2018