NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · MISSISSIPPI · Newsgathering · March 21, 2006
Bush aides who posed as journalists to be reprimanded
March 21, 2006 · Two government employees who posed as journalists while preparing for a presidential visit to the Gulf Coast earlier this month will be disciplined, a White House spokesman told The Washington Post on Friday.
The two unidentified workers told a Mississippi couple that they were Fox News reporters while taking photos of the couple’s home in Gautier, Miss., five days before President Bush visited there March 8. After Bush’s visit, Jerry and Elaine Akins told The (Biloxi) Sun Herald and Biloxi ABC affiliate WLOX that on the March 3 visit, the men identified themselves as journalists from Houston and said they were working on a story about new construction.
The Akins are rebuilding their beachfront home, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
In interviews with local media and The Washington Post, the couple said they did not know President Bush would be visiting them until about an hour before he arrived. The president appeared with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour outside the Akins’ home.
The couple said the two men admitted their ruse and told them after Bush’s visit that they were actually government agents. The men showed Jerry Akins blue porcelain lapel pins with the presidential seal, and he assumed they were Secret Service agents, the Sun Herald reported.
However, a spokesman for the Secret Service told the Post the men were not part of his agency.
“I checked with our people down there in Mississippi who were involved in the advance, and it was not Secret Service people who identified themselves as members of the media,” spokesman Tom Mazur said in the Post’s Saturday edition. “We wouldn’t do that.”
A White House spokesman told the Post that the men, whose employment he would not confirm, were out of line and will be disciplined.
“This incident has been brought to our attention, and this is clearly not appropriate, nor is it part of our standard operating procedures,” White House spokesman Ken Lisaius told the Post. “The individuals involved will be verbally reprimanded.”
Bush’s visit was designed to call attention to federal efforts to aid in reconstruction, the Post reported.