Watch CBSN Live

Expletive Reported

President Bush's ostensibly private conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday at a G-8 luncheon, which ended up being caught by an open mic and later broadcast publicly, has now become one of yesterday's more popular news stories. The conversation is currently the second most popular video on As Bush's utterance of an expletive during the conversation became the general headline to the story, it inevitably gave rise to discussion about how news networks, newspapers and Web sites would handle usage of the word of the day: sh*t.

Peter Johnson rounds up the outcome in USA Today:

CNN broadcast and posted unedited video. The New York Times and The Washington Post reported the word in Web stories. On CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, MSNBC and USA TODAY, the word was excised in videos and Web stories (though an audio clip with a warning at USA TODAY included it). The Times and the Post said they'd publish the word today; USA TODAY will not.
"Broadcast news organizations," noted Poynter's Scott Libin, "have considerations cable networks don't face. It will be interesting to see if any holder of a broadcast license chooses this case as a test of the Federal Communications Commission's commitment to keeping the airwaves clean." Of course, as it turned out, none of the broadcast networks did test the FCC waters.

Now would probably be the appropriate time to wax philosophical about whether news organizations should or shouldn't broadcast or print obscene or potentially offensive words in their entirety, but frankly, we've done that before. A few weeks ago, we wrote about a similar – although far less prominent – situation -- when Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen referred to Chicago newspaper columnist Jay Mariotti thusly: "What a piece of sh-t he is," said Guillen. "F--king f-g." At the time, Mike Sims, director of news and operations, told us:

"'There are no hard and fast policies' when it comes to offensive words appearing on the site. 'These words should not be used lightly,' he says. 'You look at each individual case, and see what wraps around that word.' Sims says management has to approve any instance in which an offensive word would appear. 'I don't know there would be a time you wouldn't use f-dash-dash-k,' he says. 'I'd have to understand why it was necessary to not use the dashes. Someone would have to make that case to me.'"
In this case, no one did.'s story on the Bush/Blair conversation did not print the expletive in its entirety, instead using "sh*t."

Of course, if you're still aching for some thoughts the debate among news outlets in handling yesterday's expletive, Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune has got it covered. And as always, if you're just looking for some good old-fashioned invective, check out some bloggers' thoughts on the matter.

View CBS News In