Bush's woman troubles

What happens when "Reuters man Toby" isn't a man at all.

Published July 6, 2005 1:53PM (EDT)

After George W. Bush's most recent press conference, some reporters complained that the president hadn't taken questions from very many female reporters -- "very many," in this case, meaning more than one. The day after the press conference, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked, "At the press conference yesterday, approximately 25 percent of the journalists were women, and the president took only one question from a woman reporter. Can you explain this pattern?" McClellan said it was the media's fault; if editors would assign more female reporters to the White House, the president would have the ability to call on more female reporters.

If that answer wasn't exactly a satisfying one, the president didn't help himself much during a stop in Denmark on the way to Scotland Tuesday. Bush apparently wanted to take a question from Reuters, so he shouted out, "Reuters man, Toby." Only it turns out that "Reuters man, Toby" is Tabassum Zakaria, who happens to be a woman. Bush immediately corrected himself, then made matters worse. "Woman -- excuse me, I can see that," he said. "So how long have you been on the presidential beat?" When Zakaria said that she'd been covering the White House since February, Bush told her, "Yes, well, make yourself less scarce."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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