White House Briefing: McClellan Explains Bush ‘Guitar’ Photo

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By: E&P Staff

At a White House press briefing today, Press Secretary Scott McClellan described preparations for Hurricane Rita, how they contrast with what happened with Katrina, and claimed that a quick trip to Texas by the president was by no means a “photo op.”

At that point, a reporter recalled the now-famous photo of President Bush laughing and playing a guitar at a speaking event in California the day after New Orleans almost disappeared under water. Here is the exchange, from the official transcript.

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Q How is it going to help the people of Texas practically prepare for this storm that the President is going to fly in to take a firsthand look at preparations and show support for first responders? How is that going to practically help them do what they have to do?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we’re going to have as minimal a footprint as possible. We’re not going to get in the way of the ongoing preparations that are going on. We go out of our way when we travel to make sure that that doesn’t happen. The President wants to go in there and be able to thank all those first responders as they are gearing up for the challenges that will be coming shortly thereafter. That’s why we’re going there first, for a short amount of time, and then going on to Colorado. And it will also give him a chance to see firsthand some of the preparations that are underway on the ground.

Q But it sounds like a bit of a photo op, one that he’d prefer over playing the guitar at the airport photo op.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, let’s correct the record on that. There was a reporter from your news organization that was backstage during that event. That was an event to go and thank our troops and talk about the war on terrorism. And it was not an event, as you may have portrayed to some people that are watching this out there by this simple statement. It was —

Q He didn’t pick up the guitar while the hurricane was rolling into Louisiana?

MR. McCLELLAN: — much more than that. The person that was entertaining our troops there presented a gift to the President. So I think you need to make that clear to everybody who’s watching this or to your viewers. And it was one of your colleagues at ABC News who was backstage taking a picture of that.

Q It was a very good picture and I’m proud of her, but the question I have —

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but that picture was taken by someone — hang on, hang on, Terry — that picture was taken by some people way out of context. And it was portrayed that the President was simply doing that, and that’s not the case, as you and I know.

Q The point was that he was over there and not —

MR. McCLELLAN: As you and I know, I had announced shortly before that, that we were returning the next morning. As you and I know, we had announced the President — the day before — all the briefings he was participating in. The President spoke the day before. He spoke that day about the hurricane. So let’s just set the record straight.

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