The Sun claimed a major coup over its rivals after being the only UK newspaper to be granted a one-on-one interview with George Bush ahead of his state visit, writes Dominic Ponsford.
The Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and Press Association had to make do with a group audience at the White House. But Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh was granted a 30-minute exclusive interview with Bush. He told Press Gazette the interview request was made via Downing Street, which passed it on with an official recommendation.
He said: “I know someone in Washington who is a sort of Alastair Campbell figure and I e-mailed him to see if he could help. I explained that we’ve got 10 million readers and that largely we were pro-American.
I said there was huge sympathy among our readers on September 11 and our readers were fully behind America in Afghanistan and, with a few more reservations, in Iraq as well.”
Kavanagh’s interview with the president took place in the Oval office where he also met National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush, the First Lady. He said: “It has to be the top interview I have done – it was an amazing honour and a privilege, to be honest.”
Kavanagh said he thought the popular perception of Bush as an intellectual lightweight was wide of the mark. “I’ve never been able to fully understand why he has been cast as a buffoon,” he said. “When I first saw him in action with the rest of the lobby at Camp David, when he first became president, we were all surprised to discover that he was gracious and relaxed, and that flew in the face of everything we’d been led to believe. I found that he was in command of all the issues we covered and that he had an answer for everything I put to him.”
The Washington Post published a scathing article about the Bush interview, headlined “Prez in topless tabloid”, and pointed out that he had given no solo interviews this year to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time or Newsweek.