Study: Bush tell-all got triple the coverage of Bush memoir

Michael Calderone
The Cutline

George W. Bush seemed to be everywhere last week, talking about his new memoir with TV hosts including Oprah Winfrey, NBC's Matt Lauer, Fox News' Sean Hannity and CNN's Candy Crowley.

Still, "Decision Points" didn't garner even a third as much media attention as the harshly critical 2008 tell-all written by former Press Secretary Scott McClellan, according to a study by Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

McClellan book got more coverage than Bush's
McClellan book got more coverage than Bush's

In its first week on shelves, McClellan's book—and the media firestorm it generated—got triple the share of coverage that his former boss's would in 2010. McClellan's book filled 14 percent of the newshole its first week, whereas Bush's filled only 4.1 percent. (Former CIA Director George Tenet's 2007 book on the Iraq invasion also got a larger share of coverage than the Bush memoir.)

Conservative media critics may view the study as evidence that the press is much quicker to jump on a story that makes Republican political leaders look bad.

And it's true that plenty of liberal commentators and longtime opponents of the Iraq war seized on McClellan's account. Indeed, McClellan's first cable appearance was on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown," the cable news show most critical of the administration.

But it should also be remembered that McClellan's book got so much attention because it shocked the Washington establishment and led to Bush officials hitting the airwaves to counter McClellan's claims.

Although some White House reporters knew of McClellan's frustrations at the end of his tenure, the public certainly didn't expect such a bombshell. Here was a longtime Bush loyalist giving a candid, unfiltered view of White House -- and, in the process, rebuking the administration for what he viewed as its mishandling of the war in Iraq and of the response to Hurricane Katrina.

McClellan also specifically called out Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Karl Rove for giving him bad information--which McClellan duly circulated to the White House press corps--about the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame, the CIA agent who was outed after her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, published an op-ed disputing the Bush administration's  case for invading Iraq.