November 6th, 2008
10:37 PM ET
8 years ago

First Dog takes a bite at White House reporter

A happier Barney, with President Bush.

A happier Barney, with President Bush.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama's daughters have been promised a puppy for the White House - President Bush's dog, Barney, demonstrated his technique for dealing with the media Thursday...sinking his teeth into Reuters TV White House correspondent Jon Decker.

Call it a case of biting the hand that covers you.

First Dog Barney and his handler were out on the front lawn for a walk when Reuters' Decker and another reporter approached.

"He looked very nice and friendly," says Decker. "I bent down to pet him and he just snapped at me."

Decker holds up his right index finger, now sporting two band aids. The First Dog's teeth punctured the skin and Decker started bleeding, so he was sent to see presidential physician, Dr. Richard Tubb. Tubb gave Decker a two- to three-day supply of antibiotics, and told him to come back Friday for a tetanus booster.

"I don't know what he did, but apparently Barney didn't like it," says April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network, who captured the entire incident on her Flip video camera.

Decker insists he didn't provoke Barney, and that in fact he's good with Scottish terriers. Decker's mother's dog, Fergus, came from the same New Jersey breeder.

"I don't know what set him off," says Decker. "Maybe it was the Republican debacle Tuesday night, the fact that soon he'll be replaced as America's first dog or that I happened to have bacon for breakfast."

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, have promised to get their daughters, Malia and Sasha, a puppy when they move into the White House.

Sally McDonough, press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush, points out that Ryan commented the biting incident is very unlike Barney.

"I think it was his way of saying he is done with the paparazzi," says McDonough. "I've talked to Jon and he is being a good sport about it all and well, Barney is in the White House Dog House."

"He was just in a surly mood this morning," surmises Decker.

Adam Goldfarb, an 'Issues Specialist' on dangerous dogs and dog bites, had his own take on the matter after viewing the incriminating video.

'I think what happened is two things were going on– one is that nobody was picking up on the dog's stress. Watching the video, the dog's posture was very tense. Which is a sign that he was stressed out in the situation. The other thing the reporter did wrong was the way he approached Barney. He approached very quickly, and from above. His hand came downward from up high. And that can be very frightening for a dog, especially a small one."

Cox Newspaper White House correspondent and veteran Bush watcher Ken Herman shared the first of many jokes about the First Dog's attack on Decker. "You know what Barney calls a presidential press conference? A buffet."

Filed under: Extra • President Bush
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. PITBULLS Make Better Kissers

    Will The Obama Girls come through?
    I hope the New 1st dog is a Pitbull named Sarah. It will be truely sweet when they put a skirt & a sweater on it Plus Pink Lipstick.

    OMG ! YESSS YESSS !! 😛

    November 6, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  2. Every Wilson


    November 6, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  3. Eugene

    This is just way too funny. I was sure it was a misplaced article from the Onion.

    November 6, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  4. Sherry

    Apparently Barney never truly acquired a taste for reporters . . . until now!

    November 6, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  5. A.

    Make sure the dog gets his shots. We wouldn't want him to get an infection.

    November 6, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |

    Bush is going down in history as the president who attacked a country that didn't attack us... So makes sense his dog would, too.

    November 6, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  7. sjp

    born and raised with dogs, lesson #1 is never reach for a strange dog, let it come to you. otherwise, the dog has shown more fight in the last 1/2 year than its master.

    November 6, 2008 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  8. Smile76

    That is funny. Only Bush's best friend can help him out in such troubling times that still sit at his door for 70 days

    November 6, 2008 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  9. SC

    Bush is bad and so is his dog.

    November 6, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  10. Does Bush kick his dog?

    Maybe that's why he's so mean...

    November 7, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  11. Loretta

    The first dog should have taken the reporters arm off.

    November 7, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  12. tim from ohio

    the reporter deserved it.

    November 7, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  13. HouseDiva

    evil owner...evil dog

    November 7, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  14. Lyndon

    Even the dogs bite in Bush's White House.

    November 7, 2008 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  15. mn. red

    I would be more worried that barny would get sick than the reporter. Better get barny to the vet.

    November 7, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  16. bn

    "He looked very nice and friendly," says Decker.

    What an idiot. Can't read the dog's body language. It clearly was distressed. Shove your hand and a dog's face who doesn't know you and don't be surprised if you're bit.

    November 7, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  17. Duop in Colorado

    I think Barney was having a good time but was distracted.

    November 7, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  18. Blue Virginian

    This is not news. The dog didn't know the reporter and bit him in self defense.

    November 7, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  19. Tom

    Just goes to show how people never really know how their dog will react, even towards someone who is "good" with dogs. If the President had bitten a reporter there would be serious charges filed. I don't see that letting your dog do the dirty work makes it any less serious.

    November 7, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  20. Bob

    Barney in 2012?

    November 7, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |


    November 7, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  22. Charlie Bradley

    Too bad he bit the reporter and not the owner of the dog. 75 more days and I'm counting them down every one

    November 7, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  23. corey

    where was that dog when all the liberal media was pounding McCain and Palin this election????????

    November 7, 2008 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  24. Van

    Barney was the best thing in the Bush administration. Leave him alone.

    November 7, 2008 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  25. Andrew

    Maybe Jon Decker is a Democrat or he thought Barney was a pitbull and tried to put lipstick on him...Wait I know...


    November 7, 2008 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
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