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Bush and the Turkey
I received the following email about the photo in the Hoax Photo Database of Pres. Bush holding a "Trophy Turkey" during his 2003 Thanksgiving trip to Iraq:

you claim that the turkey George Bush is holding is plastic. This urban myth has been debunked a thousand times and yet still keeps resurfacing. Even the New York Times was forced to print a retraction of this myth back in 2004... If you want to maintain a reputation for accuracy I suggest you amend the caption accordingly. The turkey was real and not plastic.

Naturally wanting to maintain my "reputation for accuracy" I immediately looked into this. The New York Times did indeed print a retraction in 2004:

Correction: July 11, 2004, Sunday. An article last Sunday about surprises in politics referred incorrectly to the turkey carried by President Bush during his unannounced visit to American troops in Baghdad over Thanksgiving. It was real, not fake.

Unfortunately, what's missing in that retraction is an explanation of what evidence made them change their mind. Who did they interview? What's the source?

I figured someone must have dug deeper into the story and found someone who was there who could attest to the fact that the turkey was real, but all I could find was a lot of conservative sites linking to that one NYT retraction. Though in my search I did come across a Turkey Dinner George Bush doll on Amazon (plastic Bush holding a plastic turkey).

Eventually I took a closer look at the Washington Post article in which Mike Allen (who traveled to Baghdad with Bush on that trip) made the original allegation about the turkey, and that's where I found it:

In the most widely published image from his Thanksgiving day trip to Baghdad, the beaming president is wearing an Army workout jacket and surrounded by soldiers as he cradles a huge platter laden with a golden-brown turkey.
The bird is so perfect it looks as if it came from a food magazine, with bunches of grapes and other trimmings completing a Norman Rockwell image that evokes bounty and security in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.
But as a small sign of the many ways the White House maximized the impact of the 21/2-hour stop at the Baghdad airport, administration officials said yesterday that Bush picked up a decoration, not a serving plate.
Officials said they did not know the turkey would be there or that Bush would pick it up. A contractor had roasted and primped the turkey to adorn the buffet line, while the 600 soldiers were served from cafeteria-style steam trays, the officials said. They said the bird was not placed there in anticipation of Bush's stealthy visit, and military sources said a trophy turkey is a standard feature of holiday chow lines.

Allen notes that the turkey was a "decoration," but he also notes that it was "roasted and primped" (i.e. it was a real bird). Apparently a lot of people (including myself and the New York Times) focused on the word "decoration," not "roasted." In fact, I had to read that paragraph several times over before I noticed the word "roasted." Funny how the mind can make us ignore some details and focus on others. Must have been my liberal, anti-Bush bias clouding my judgement.

Anyway, I've now corrected the entry in the hoax photo database. Thanks to the correspondent for correcting that error.
Photos/VideosPolitics
Posted by The Curator on Mon Mar 02, 2009
The original claim I read about the Baghdad photo-op turkey was not that it was plastic, but that it was not the food served to the troops. As the article says, the fancy turkey was only for decoration, and what the troops actually got in their trays was slices of frozen, processed turkey (or something similar). So the details about the story (an artificial turkey in Bush's hands) may not be accurate, but the main idea (Bush's handlers prettying things up to whitewash the situation in Iraq) was completely true.

White House spin doctors must have greeted this photo with a hearty "Mission Accomplished!"
Posted by Big Gary  in  Turkey, Texas  on  Mon Mar 02, 2009  at  01:28 PM
. . .but the main idea (Bush's handlers prettying things up to whitewash the situation in Iraq) was completely true.


Ummm. . .no. The turkey was set out by the troops who had no idea that the President was going to show up, not by Bush or anybody linked to him. It's what they usually do: have one nice fancy looking turkey fixed up as a centerpiece so it looks nice, and then serve everybody else other turkey. The turkey had absolutely nothing to do with Bush's visit until he he happened to wander in, see it, and pick it up and be photographed.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Mon Mar 02, 2009  at  06:40 PM
The "fake turkey" was the guy holding the platter.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Mon Mar 02, 2009  at  07:40 PM
Do I smell a dead horse?

Ewwww!
Posted by coit  on  Tue Mar 03, 2009  at  10:09 AM
Accipiter, I think you and Alex are defining "main thing" differently.
Posted by Mark  in  Cincinnati  on  Tue Mar 03, 2009  at  11:11 AM
@Cranky Media Guy,

No, that's also incorrect. He is a "real turkey".
Posted by RichmondTom  on  Tue Mar 03, 2009  at  12:28 PM
"... but all I could find was a lot of conservative sites linking to that one NYT retraction."
Tim Blair, who runs the Editorial Page of the Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia) has been tracking the 'plastic turkey' story since it started. As here on 21 Dec 03: http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/005465.php
There are also several million former military pers who could have assisted in determining the accuracy of this story, especially those present at the dinner, who subsequently wrote of it.

To put it gently, the 'plastic turkey' has been a running gag for five years, by those who have an appreciation for factual reporting.

Cheers
Posted by J.M. Heinrichs  on  Wed Mar 04, 2009  at  01:13 AM
>Must have been my liberal, anti-Bush bias clouding my judgement.

Gee, you think? Oh sorry. I meant to type 'Gee! You think.
Posted by Chris  in  Scotland  on  Wed Mar 04, 2009  at  12:12 PM
"Unfortunately, what's missing in that retraction is an explanation of what evidence made them change their mind. Who did they interview? What's the source?"

So if someone claims that a turkey photographed at dinnertime, on Thanksgiving, is plastic, the burden of proof is on those who say it's real?

And from the "Trophy Turkey" page itself: "There were no allegations the photographer had staged the scene. Apparently Bush spontaneously picked up the turkey, and the photographer snapped the picture. But the media was criticized for disseminating an image that gave a misleading view of the Thanksgiving event."

This is going to shock some people, but did you know that the shovels used at groundbreaking events are specially-polished "display" shovels? And that after the (staged!) photo is taken, the politicians with the shovels DO NOT FINISH DIGGING THE HOLE?

Misleading!
Posted by Dave S.  on  Wed Mar 04, 2009  at  12:21 PM
I'm pretty sure anyone who has served in the military since my time n service (mid-'60s) can affirm that Thanksgiving dinner in a big mess hall *always* has a 'display turkey' that is not served to the personnel. At least not in the mess hall. My understanding is that in at least some mess halls the turkey is cooked properly and later eaten by the cooking staff. Okay by me. Just goes to show how little 'journalists' (can't really call them reporters any more since they do so little factual reporting) know about the military. Not that any vets needed told that.

But the point so obdurately being missed by some here is that the media "reflexively" to this opportunity to turn it into Bush-bashing. No wrong detail was ever so minor as not to be used. In fact, given the Dan Rather mindset, if they couldn't find a phony 'fact' to use they would just make them up. And some wonder why newspapers are swirling down the drain.
Posted by JorgXMcKie  in  Ypsi, MI  on  Wed Mar 04, 2009  at  01:16 PM
Ah, the days of Bush... It all comes back to me like a swirling flush of effluence, dragging us all down to the alligator-infested sewer that was/is GWB. Turkey jokes, eat it jokes, all that fun stuff... Har de har har. Assbite... hey, how the Hague are you?
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Wed Mar 04, 2009  at  05:28 PM
Here's how it happens in a military mess hall:

A bunch of turkeys are roasted up for thanksgiving. They're all (but one) sliced up and stored/served in hotel pans. The one big fancy turkey is gussied up and set on the serving line so everyone can get a look at the beautiful bird. It's the last to get eaten, but it does indeed get eaten.
Posted by Parabellum  on  Wed Mar 04, 2009  at  05:36 PM
So newspapers are failing because they were mean to Bush?
Posted by Mark  in  Cincinnati  on  Wed Mar 04, 2009  at  07:32 PM
"So newspapers are failing because they were mean to Bush?"
Being "mean to Bush" was a symptom of the malaise.
Liberal/left "reporters" and "journalists", being liberal and left, decided they were too advanced to merely cover governments and their formation- they felt it their duty, as sanctimonious wankers, to actually formulate government and public policy.
A large section of the public has wisely decided that being a cheersquad for Democrat/Left inanity is not the role of a newspaper.
They figure that if they are not receiving balanced and fair coverage in the traditional newspaper, they will look for it elsewhere.
The only people left reading will be like "Big Garry" who left a comment above ("So the details about the story may not be accurate, but the main idea was completely true").
Thus, we have the hilarity of imminent demise of the NYT as the paper of record.
The NYT, which took every chance it could to try to burn Bush while promoting his opponents.
So, yeah, "being mean to Bush" has cost the NYT and others.
Posted by mr.simmon  on  Wed Mar 04, 2009  at  08:54 PM
"Thus, we have the hilarity of imminent demise of the NYT as the paper of record.
The NYT, which took every chance it could to try to burn Bush while promoting his opponents."

Um, the same New York Times which employed the reporter Judith Miller who wrote numerous stories supporting Bush's war in Iraq based on erroneous information? THAT New York Times?
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Thu Mar 05, 2009  at  03:32 AM
"So if someone claims that a turkey photographed at dinnertime, on Thanksgiving, is plastic, the burden of proof is on those who say it's real?"

THANK you.
Posted by Jim Treacher  in  Here  on  Thu Mar 05, 2009  at  04:18 AM
Wow, and here I thought that the notion of only one factor killing newspapers was too absurd to debate. It has nothing to do with electronic news media, nothing to do with convenience, nothing even to do with the messy ink. It's all a single conscious reaction to liberals. . . even in far right papers like the Cincinnati Enquirer which has endorsed only Republicans for president since 1864 and kissed Bush's shadow for the last eight years.

You're stupider than I would have guessed.
Posted by Mark  in  Cincinnati  on  Thu Mar 05, 2009  at  11:15 AM
I stopped buying papers 6 years ago when they turned traitor.
Posted by Trudy  in  Credible  on  Thu Mar 05, 2009  at  01:33 PM
How can a paper turn traitor? Did it print "Death to America" on the front page? Or did it simply support a view other than your own?

People need to learn that not everyone will agree with them. That's boring.
Posted by Dily  in  West Virginia  on  Thu Mar 05, 2009  at  06:23 PM
"I stopped buying papers 6 years ago when they turned traitor."

FACTS! Who needs 'em when you've got a wacky unsubstantiated opinion?
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Fri Mar 06, 2009  at  03:59 AM
Ugh, it may not have to do with the messy ink for other people...but that was the deal killer for me! It always drove me crazy and I've always hated handling newspapers for that very reason.
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Fri Mar 06, 2009  at  05:04 PM
...But I do like drawing mustaches on the people in the newspaper we have at work.
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Fri Mar 06, 2009  at  05:06 PM
This is a TEST Comment
Salman Khan
<a >Salman Khan</a>
http://www.google.com/
Posted by Salman Khan  on  Tue Mar 10, 2009  at  07:13 AM
Looks like this correction got disseminated somewhere eh?
Posted by outeast  on  Wed Mar 11, 2009  at  08:12 AM
I would like to buy one of these plastic turkeys, where can i find?
Posted by Jorge  on  Wed Mar 11, 2009  at  10:46 AM
It's sad that so much venomous bile is spilled by the Bush-haters who just can't get over their pettiness. These of course being the same persons who cry "blasphemy!" whenever criticism or even simple disagreement is levelled at their favorite pol or position. Time to grow up, friends.

Back on topic, I agree with Alex that he's plainly been blinded by his political view, since no one in his or her right mind could possibly assume that the NYT would publish a retraction without clear proof of error -- especially not a retraction of a statement skewering their favorite target.
Posted by Rueful  in  Tomorrow  on  Thu Mar 12, 2009  at  01:52 PM
What's even more sad is that after having had to put up with eight years of petty squabbling on all sides, we've finally reached the end of his term of office and have gone well into the term of the next guy. . .and yet we're still surrounded by the same petty squabbling about Bush. If people have serious disagreements about his policies or about the people who disagree with his policies, fine. But I'd rather hoped we'd be moving on from all the snide remarks, childish verbal sniping, whining, and all the rest.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Fri Mar 13, 2009  at  09:05 PM
"Do I smell a dead horse?

Ewwww!"

The song of someone who doesn't want to let a myth go.

"FACTS! Who needs 'em when you've got a wacky unsubstantiated opinion?"

Irony...
Posted by Christopher Taylor  in  Salem, Oregon, USA  on  Thu Apr 09, 2009  at  11:27 AM
when I search on google turkey travel ( country) find this article smile I think wrong smile
Posted by izle  on  Sun Jul 26, 2009  at  03:40 AM
Turkey isn't fake.

"FAKE USA"

OK?

TURKEY IS VERY VERY BIG COUNTRY
Posted by suratem  in  Turkey  on  Tue Sep 01, 2009  at  01:39 PM
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