Beat The Press

White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports that President Bush -- the first one -- had some harsh words for the press today.
It's former President George Bush as press critic.

At a White House ceremony today, the 41st President let loose a formidable tirade about how some in the press – in his view - do their jobs.

The rant came at an event honoring a new scholarship named for the late Time Magazine reporter Hugh Sidey, whom Mr. Bush genuinely liked and admired.

He said its one thing for reporters to take an adversarial approach toward the people they cover.

"It's another when the journalists' rhetoric goes beyond skepticism and goes over the line into overt, unrelenting hostility and personal animosity," said Mr. Bush the elder.


But his blistering indictment was not over.

He said the antipathy of some in the press "got worse" after his son became President.

It got so bad, he said, "I found myself doing what I never should have done: I talk back to the television set. And I said things that my mother wouldn't necessarily approve of."

The former President said wife Barbara, the former first lady, didn't want to hear what was being said about their son on TV and made her husband wear headphones when he would watch.

"I'm sitting there like a guy from outer spece with these things on," said Mr. Bush of the headphones. "I can hear every word...but she doesn't have to hear one single word of the broadcast."

"I could listen and even talk back to the set, while she'd go about much more tranquil pursuits," he reported.

He made it sound as though his anger at some of the reporting he read and heard rose to the level of obsession.

"I started a new organization once, called Press Bashers Anonymous," Mr. Bush admitted.

He said he tried to restrain his rage at the press, but it didn't last.

"And then along came the South Carolina primary or something like that – and the hell with it – I got out of the organization and it folded."

The 41st President told the first recipient of the Hugh Sidey Scholarship to follow the lead of the reporter for which it was named.

"Study hard. Call 'em like you see 'em. Write courageously," Mr. Bush advised.

He said "heaven knows the world of journalism needs a few more Hugh Sideys."

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.