POSTED: 2:58 p.m. HST, Oct 18, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 5:20 p.m. HST, Oct 18, 2012
Former Gov. Linda Lingle has flatly denied ever describing President George W. Bush as the “greatest president,” but she acknowledged making the statement in an email a decade ago.
Lingle’s assessment of Bush was reported by David Shapiro in a column in the Honolulu Advertiser in May 2002 about Lingle’s appearance at the state GOP convention. Shapiro wrote that Lingle calling Bush “the greatest president ever” was “an overstatement that makes even some Republicans cringe.”
Lingle sent Shapiro an email the day the column appeared in the newspaper. “Thanks for covering my speech at the convention and the generally upbeat piece,” she wrote. “You would have to pick up on the `greatest President ever’ line that I misspoke. It was not in my notes and I meant to say a great president. It was fair comment nonetheless, and I appreciate your continued interest in the race.”
Lenny Klompus, the deputy campaign manger for Lingle’s Republican U.S. Senate campaign, said Thursday that Lingle would have no immediate comment. “The email speaks for itself,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, Lingle’s Democratic opponent, had asked Lingle at a debate on Tuesday whether she still believed Bush was the “greatest president” given his administration’s handling of the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina. Lingle challenged Hirono to produce a citation for the statement.
“I would ask that Congresswoman Hirono cite where that was said, because it’s not a statement I ever made,” Lingle said. “Certainly, after 9/11, when President Bush faced an attack on our nation, I thought he did an outstanding job of stepping forward, of uniting the nation, of developing a plan.”
But Lingle insisted that the “quote she mentioned, never happened.” Hirono said she was “astounded” by the denial.
Democrats have used Lingle’s “greatest president” assessment of Bush against her for a decade, mostly to undercut her image as a moderate and independent not beholden to national Republicans.
Asked by Big Island Now, an online news site, about the Bush comment, the Lingle campaign responded in September by saying that by all accounts Lingle made the reference in 2002 in the context of Bush’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Bush reference was not reported by the Honolulu Advertiser or the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in news coverage of Lingle’s remarks at the state GOP convention in 2002, but appeared a few days later in Shapiro’s column.
“As far as I know, I was the only media type to quote it and my column was the source of subsequent Democratic citations of what she said,” Shapiro said in an email Wednesday.