November 18, 2010

Battle of the Bush Books

% of Newshole
McClellan Bush book May 26-Jun. 1, 2008 14
George Tenet Apr. 29-May 4 2007 5.1
Bush “Decision Points” Nov. 8-14, 2010 4.1
Woodward “Obamas War” Sep. 20-26, 2010 2.9
Greenspan Memoir Sep. 16-21, 2007 1.4

240% – How much more coverage Scott McClellan’s book about George Bush generated than Bush’s own memoir

In the spring of 2008, when his former press secretary Scott McClellan released an unflattering tell-all book about George W. Bush’s Administration—What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception—it created a media firestorm.

McClellan’s allegation that the administration relied on propaganda to sell the war in Iraq and an admission that some of his briefings from the podium were “badly misguided” were among the nuggets that attracted attention. McClellan’s former colleagues called him a turncoat, and he hit the media circuit to defend himself. Attention to this controversial book filled 14.0% of the newshole from May 26-June 1, 2008, making it the second-biggest topic that week and the biggest book release story since PEJ began its News Coverage Index in January 2007.

But when Bush recently released his own memoir, Decision Points, it generated less than a third of the media attention of McClellan’s book. In the week of November 8-14, when the former president went on a high-profile media tour to discuss the memoir, the story filled 4.1% of the newshole. And one of the more publicized storylines that week was a reconciliation between Bush and rapper Kanye West, who apologized for saying that the president “doesn’t care about black people” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Another look at the Bush Administration also generated more coverage than Decision Points.  Bush’s former CIA Director George Tenet wrote At the Center of the Storm, which detailed the decision to invade Iraq in 2001. In the book, Tenet claimed he was unfairly scapegoated for the administration’s miscalculation about WMD in Iraq. Tenet’s was the second-biggest book release story since 2007, filling 5.1% of the newshole from April 29-May 4, 2007.

Rounding out the top-five book stories were Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, which described the first year of the Obama Administration, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s memoir Age of Turbulence.  Woodward’s book was received with both criticism and acclaim; it filled 2.9% the week of its debut, September 20-26, 2010. Greenspan’s look at his role in the Federal Reserve and his relationships with former presidents captured 1.4% of the newshole from September 16-21, 2007.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ