Bush uses expletive to describe Times reporter
NAPERVILLE, Ill. (CNN) -- During what his campaign called a "whispered aside," Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush used an expletive Monday to describe a New York Times reporter, the author of several articles Bush has felt were unfair.
Standing on a stage here just prior to making an address, Bush told his vice presidential running mate, Dick Cheney, "There's Adam Clymer, major league a------ from The New York Times."
Cheney replied, "Oh, yeah, big time."
Neither man was apparently aware that their remarks could be picked up by an open microphone on the podium.
Asked about the comment later Monday as he deplaned in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he was to make a speech on health-care policy Tuesday, Bush said, "I regret that the private comments made it to the public airwaves."
Asked if he planned to apologize to the reporter, Bush answered, "I regret people heard the comments."
The reference was to a Washington correspondent for the Times who was there to cover Bush's appearance.
When asked about the exchange, Karen Hughes, the communications director for the Bush campaign said, "It was meant to be a whispered aside to his running mate. It was not intended to be a public comment." Hughes said Clymer had been the author of a number of articles that Bush felt to be unfair.
The campaign of Democratic challenger Al Gore said the incident represented a breach of Bush's promise to set a new tone for the campaign.
Kym Spell, a spokeswoman for the Gore campaign said, "George Bush, who promised to change the tone, has now broken his word twice: by launching negative personal attacks on Al Gore, and now, by using an expletive to describe a New York Times reporter. Gov. Bush's behavior under the pressures of the campaign is unfortunate and curious."
Andrew Rosenthal, national editor of the Times, said the newspaper had been prepared to ignore the comment because it was whispered and not meant to be heard publicly. However, the newspaper changed its position after Bush campaign staffers had discussed the remark publicly and accused Clymer of bias.
"Since then Karen Hughes and others have been going around and talking about it and criticizing Adam Clymer's coverage of the governor," Rosenthal said he felt compelled to respond, adding the campaign had never called the Times to complain of Clymer's coverage.
"Adam's coverage is fair and accurate. These comments are untrue and unfair. The Bush campaign is accusing Adam of being biased and unfair and we reject that. If they have a problem with the coverage, they should call," said Rosenthal.