Former White House press secretary and Fox News host Dana Perino appeared on The Kelly File on Friday night to lament that she shared a touching story about President Bush visiting wounded soldiers in Washington with National Public Radio, but they edited out a family who was overjoyed to see the president, choosing to focus just on an angry mother who was mad at Bush.Here's the story NPR cut, as Perino reconted it to Kelly:
Perino said that Bush visited a wounded Marine who had not opened his eyes since his Humvee was hit by an IED in Iraq.Yes, NPR cut that story. However -- as NewsBusters notes -- the NPR interview included Perino's assertion that most wounded veterans and their families were happy to see Bush:
PERINO: His mother and dad were there, his wife, his daughter and son were there, and the President is there. The family was overjoyed to see them. And that was interesting to me. I hadn't seen that before. It was my first visit with him to see wounded warriors. And as he asked the military aide to read the Purple Heart [commendation], we all stood attention and at the end of it, the little boy grabbed the President's jacket and he said, "what's the Purple Heart?"
And the President got down on his knee and said, "well, the Purple Heart is for your dad because he is brave and courageous and he loves you and he loves you and he loves his the country and I hope you always remember that."
PERINO: Most every family was just delighted that the president was there and so honored that the commander in chief would stop by. And I wasn't sure what it would be like. And on my first trip there, I witnessed that for about the first 25 people he visited.And Perino used the other story, about a mother who chastised the president, as an example of Bush's empathy and compassion:
And then she yelled, you know, why are your children OK, but my son is here?In fact, when Perino's book was first published, an excerpt appeared at the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal site -- and while it included both anecdotes, the headline of the piece was "Why George W. Bush Let a Soldier’s Mom Yell at Him." The story then went on to be the focus of items at other conservative sites: IJReview ("George W. Bush Once Let a Marine’s Mom Yell at Him. The Reason Why is Heartbreaking and Revealing."), Conservative Tribune ("Dying Soldier’s Mom Yells at George W. Bush ... He Responds with 7 Surprising Words"), and youngcons.com ("Soldier’s Mother Yells at President Bush, His Response is What You Would Expect").
And the president stopped trying to comfort her because she was inconsolable. But he didn't leave. He stood there almost as if he needed to absorb it and to understand it. Commanders in chief make really tough decisions. And we went on to the next rooms, and I remember those being experiences where the families were very happy to see him.
But when we got on Marine One to fly back to the White House, the president was looking out the window. And then he looked at me. And he said, that mama sure was mad at me. And then he looked out the window and he said, and I don't blame her a bit. And a tear rolled down his cheek, but he didn't wipe it away. And then we flew back to the White House.
So when right-wing sites focused on this anecdote, Perino was fine with that. But when NPR focuses on it, that's liberal media bias!
But I suppose it was unfair of NPR's interviewer, David Greene, to be interested in more than what an empathetic fellow Bush could be:
GREENE: I mean, I'm interested in moments like that because, I mean, the president was leading a war in Iraq that was, you know, incredibly controversial in this country.Instead, he should have just said, "What a truly compassionate president we had before Barack Obama came along and sullied the Oval Office!" Right?
GREENE: Is that one reason he felt like he had to absorb something like that from...
PERINO: Well, I think any commander in chief that asks his men and women in uniform to go on a mission and then that individual is harmed because of a decision that you have made - yes, of course.
But not to worry. Yesterday, FoxNews.com posted the same excerpt from Perino's book that was previously published by the Daily Signal -- but this time, no chances were taken with the headline. Fox's headline focuses on the anecdote NPR didn't include:
The day President Bush's tears spilled onto a Marine's face at Walter ReedHere's the anecdote in full -- and let me warn you that it's even more offensively manipulative than it was in the telling on Megyn Kelly's show.
We started in the intensive care unit. The chief of naval operations (CNO) briefed the president on our way into the hospital about the first patient we’d see. He was a young Marine who had been injured when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb. After his rescue, he was flown to Landstuhl U.S. Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany. At his bedside were his parents, wife, and five-year-old son.If, knowing how horribly Bush mismanaged two wars, you can read that story about "tears dripping from [Bush's] eyes" onto the face of a dying Marine without revulsion, you're made of stronger stuff than I am.
“What’s his prognosis?” the president asked.
“Well, we don’t know sir, because he’s not opened his eyes since he arrived, so we haven’t been able to communicate with him. But no matter what, Mr. President, he has a long road ahead of him,” said the CNO.
We had to wear masks because of the risk of infection to the patient. I watched carefully to see how the family would react to President Bush, and I was worried that they might be mad at him and blame him for their loved one’s situation. But I was wrong.
The family was so excited the president had come. They gave him big hugs and thanked him over and over. Then they wanted to get a photo. So he gathered them all in front of Eric Draper, the White House photographer.
President Bush asked, “Is everybody smiling?” But they all had ICU masks on. A light chuckle ran through the room as everyone got the joke.
The Marine was intubated. The president talked quietly with the family at the foot of the patient’s bed. I looked up at the ceiling so that I could hold back tears.
After he visited with them for a bit, the president turned to the military aide and said, “Okay, let’s do the presentation.” The wounded warrior was being awarded the Purple Heart, given to troops that suffer wounds in combat.
Everyone stood silently while the military aide in a low and steady voice presented the award. At the end of it, the Marine’s young child tugged on the president’s jacket and asked, “What’s a Purple Heart?”
The president got down on one knee and pulled the little boy closer to him. He said, “It’s an award for your dad, because he is very brave and courageous, and because he loves his country so much. And I hope you know how much he loves you and your mom, too.”
As they hugged, there was a commotion from the medical staff as they moved toward the bed.
The Marine had just opened his eyes. I could see him from where I stood.
The CNO held the medical team back and said, “Hold on, guys. I think he wants the president.”
The president jumped up and rushed over to the side of the bed. He cupped the Marine’s face in his hands. They locked eyes, and after a couple of moments the president, without breaking eye contact, said to the military aide, “Read it again.”
So we stood silently as the military aide presented the Marine with the award for a second time. The president had tears dripping from his eyes onto the Marine’s face. As the presentation ended, the president rested his forehead on the wounded warrior's for a moment.
Now everyone was crying, and for so many reasons: the sacrifice; the pain and suffering; the love of country; the belief in the mission; and the witnessing of a relationship between a soldier and his Commander in Chief that the rest of us could never fully grasp. (In writing this book, I contacted several military aides who helped me track down the name of the Marine. I hoped for news that he had survived. He did not. He died during surgery six days after the president’s visit. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery and is survived by his wife and their three children.