U.S. News

Bush's father complains of news media "hostility"

U.S. President George W. Bush (C) talks with his father, former President George Bush (L), during former U.S. President Gerald Ford's state funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington January 2, 2007 file photo. Bush's father accused the news media of "personal animosity" toward his son and said he found the criticism so unrelenting he sometimes talked back to his television set. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush’s father accused the news media of “personal animosity” toward his son and said he found the criticism so unrelenting he sometimes talked back to his television set.

“It’s one thing to have an adversarial ... relationship -- hard-hitting journalism -- it’s another when the journalists’ rhetoric goes beyond skepticism and goes over the line into overt, unrelenting hostility and personal animosity,” former President George Bush said.

The elder Bush, the 41st U.S. president, had a relatively collegial relationship with the press but things turned sour during his losing 1992 re-election campaign. He got so fed up with media coverage that supporters at the time circulated hats with the slogan “Annoy the Media -- Re-Elect Bush.”

“I won’t get too personal here -- but this antipathy got worse after the 43rd president took office,” the former president said. He was speaking at a reception for a journalism scholarship awarded in honor of the late Hugh Sidey, White House correspondent for Time magazine.

“And so bad in fact that 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,” Bush’s father said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

The current President Bush’s approval ratings have slumped to the lowest level of his presidency -- around 33 percent -- amid anger over the Iraq war and opposition to his plan to increase troop levels in Iraq. In an election widely seen as a referendum on Bush, Democrats in November captured both houses of the U.S. Congress.