Reuters Photog Captures Bush at U.N. With ‘Bathroom Break’ Note

By: E&P Staff

In what seems destined to become one of the most joked about photos of the month, a well-known Reuters photographer on Wednesday captured President George W. Bush scribbling a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a session at the United Nations. On the note is a message revolving around the need to take a “bathroom break.”

The photo, which appeared on Reuters’ official photo site, was quickly published all over the Web, though dismissed by some as a likely photoshop special. Others suggested that surely someone must have hacked the Reuters site. But a Reuters spokesman on Thursday told E&P the photo was legit.

“The photographer and editors on this story were looking for other angles in their coverage of this event, something that went beyond the stock pictures of talking heads that these kind of forums usually offer,” explained Reuters’ Stephen Naru. “This picture certainly does that.”

E&P’s update, including an explanation from Reuters’ photo editor Gary Hershorn, can be found here.

Reuters told E&P today that Bush indeed did take a “bathroom break” shortly after the picture was snapped.

The photo by Denver-based Rick Wilking, taken over a man’s shoulder, shows an official — identified in the caption as President Bush — scribbling in pencil on a small white piece of paper that already contains the words: “I think I MAY NEED A BATHroom break?” It is unclear if Bush is in the process of responding to that message or wrote it himself.

The caption at the Reuters site reads:

“U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s vision of freedom from want, persecution and war.”

The photo can be found here.

Wilking, a former Reuters staffer in Europe, took several other photos today at the U.N. posted at the Reuters site on Wednesday. He recently covered the hurricane disaster in the Gulf, and on Sept. 2 was profiled at E&P Online.

He told E&P’s Jay DeFoore at that time that he decided to leave New Orleans only after his laptop and two cameras were stolen from his car parked near the convention center. But he vowed to return to cover the “human tragedy.”

One online bio of Wilking describes him as a “presidential photographer” with 12 years experience shooting pictures in Washington or on various White House assignments. It says he started his career as a photojournalist for the Colorado Daily in 1974. He told Gelf magazine today that he is close to Bush and wonders what the White House thinks of the photo.

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