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Nine years later the N.Y. Times still awaits its Bush interview

November 12, 2008 |  6:04 am

During the presidential primary campaign season of 1999-2000, the New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger (the junior one), got up at a large banquet in New York City and took the opportunity of the public Q&A to demand to know when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush was coming by his newspaper for an interview.

Bush, who had already hosted a private luncheon for a platoon of Times reporters and editors in the Austin Governor's Mansion, didn't want to publicly tell Sulzberger to go fly a kite in Central Park. So he finessed the answer about the schedule or something.

And backstage the Bush traveling staff had a good laugh, as in the Texas governor would make the Eastern politician's traditional pilgrimage to the liberal gray lady's headquarters an eon after hell freezes over.

Now that Bush has been twice elected to the White House despite the newspaper and done interviews with pretty much every other conceivable media group including online bloggers in their pajamas somewhere, the New York newspaper's White House correspondent expresses hope the paper will finally get that interview with Bush before he leaves office in 69 days.

In a website feature called "Talk to the Newsroom," a Minneapolis reader asks Times correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg if the White House plays favorites with reporters.

The answer, of course, is of course. Every administration (and political campaign) attempts to target news for media it thinks will provide the most favorable treatment. And provides minimal but smiling cooperation to those that consistently provide negative coverage.

Stolberg answers: "The New York Times, for instance, has had a standing request to interview President Bush since well before I came on this beat in May 2006. So far, no interview — and the reason why is hardly a secret.

"White House officials are quite open about the fact that we have not gotten an interview because they don’t like our coverage. I get e-mails to that effect from them all the time. But the request still stands, and we are hoping for an interview before Mr. Bush leaves office."

Hold your breath and count to three trillion. Or until Jan. 20. Whichever comes first.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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