The S–t List: Hand Me That @#%$# Style Book, Will Ya?

Admit it — getting to report the fact that President Bush used the “s” word in a private lunchtime discussion with British PM Tony Blair is, well, fun. White House reporters get to write it, because the President said it.


Hotline’s “Wake Up Call” gives us the breakdown:

    New York Times, Washington Post and the New York Post all printed “shit.” Wall Street Journal went with “s—” and the New York Daily News printed “s–t.” CNN was the only net that said “shit.”

Of course the ice had already been broken at the Washington Post back in June of ’04. That’s when the Post quoted Vice President Dick Cheney advising Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont to go, well, uh, perform an impossible sexual act upon yourself. Except it only took the Vice President three words to say it, and those were the three words the Post printed.

(Check out Howard Kurtz’s instructive June 26 2004 article on Post naughty-word policy. Then check out page 1 of today’s Style section.)

Before that one, the last time news organizations in Washington had this much “fun” reporting a dirty little story was the case of Lorena Bobbitt, who, as you’ll recall, went on trial in Prince William County in 1994 for the “malicious wounding” of her sleeping husband’s “manhood” (news organizations often avoiding the “p” word).

If memory serves, the Post’s early coverage of the Bobbitt case in 1993 was strikingly subtle. But within a few days, the Post was having as much FUN with this story as every other media outlet. The Post’s January 11, 1994 headline read: “Bobbitt, A Slice Of America: As Lorena’s Trial Begins, Debate Rages Over A Powerful Symbol”.

Back to the present: Will the news magazines follow the lead of many if not most daily newspapers and news websites, and print the actual “s” word in their next issues? Hard to predict. For a short time Time magazine’s website referred to it only as the “s” word — but included a link to video footage of the Bush comment from co-owned CNN which is quite uncensored. A web commentary on Newsweek’s website printed only the first and fourth letters. We’ll be grabbing our advance copies of the actual magazines on Sunday to get the answer.

>UPDATE: Tony Snow’s response:

    Q What was the President’s reaction when he found out the microphones were on during the conversation with Blair?

    MR. SNOW: He sort of rolled his eyes and laughed.

    Q Rolled his eyes and laughed?

    MR. SNOW: Yes. I mean, you know — actually, his reaction first was, what did it say? So we showed him the transcript, then he rolled his eyes and laughed.