Bush on visiting a prison ministry program: ‘Everyone was black, of course.’

President Bush In his new book, Speechless: Tales of a White House Survivor, former Bush administration Matt Latimer describes a 2008 California GOP fundraiser he attended while working in the White House, where the President gave a speech to donors about his personal struggles with alcoholism. Bush then went on to make racially charged comments about his visit to a prison ministry program (p. 177):

He talked about his own failings with alcoholism as the reason he supported his faith-based initiative. “My philosophy is, find somebody who hurts and do something about it,” he said. “Don’t wait for government to tell you what to do.” He bluntly talked about his own situation. “I was beginning to love alcohol over my wife and kids. It got to a point when Billy Graham came into my life. But I was hardheaded and didn’t want to listen for a while. And then I stopped drinking overnight. I am a one-man faith-based initiative. Alcohol was competing for my affections. And it would have ruined me.”

He said things that could ruffle feathers, such as how he’d recently gone to a faith-based program run by “former drunks.” He said he went to see a prison ministry program, noting that ‘everyone was black, of course.” All eyes turned in search of the sole African American in the audience of donors. They wanted to see if he was offended.

Latimer adds that that the African-American man didn’t “appear to be” offended, and he defends Bush by saying that he “didn’t mean it in a derogatory way. He just liked making blunt observations to shock his audience.”

Ryan Watkins