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. Matt

    Is Jon Decker a democrat? 😉

    November 7, 2008 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  2. Joe from Oklahoma

    And we thought only Cheney had a vicious bite 😉

    November 7, 2008 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  3. Kerry Nicponski

    Totally the reporters fault.... You never reach toward a dog that doesn't know you with your palm down, unless you are feeding them.

    Barny type dogs have fangs the size of a German shepard.

    But the reporter learned his lesson and is gracious enough to let it all slide.

    Good lesson to be learned there.

    November 7, 2008 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  4. Lynn

    I surely hope Barney has had all his shots. I would hate for him to catch something nasty.

    November 7, 2008 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  5. Charlie

    It's probably due to the fact that the media hasn't given President Bush a lick of good press since 9/11. I'd have bit him, too.

    November 7, 2008 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  6. eagle

    first dog bites reporter. maybe revenge for liberal media reporting

    November 7, 2008 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  7. bob

    Like many dogs, Barney is like a good judge of character. After the way the press corps has handled political reporting recently, journalists have about as much honor left as lawyers. Right on, Barney. Now if only someone could sneak him into a SAG meeting.

    November 7, 2008 02:26 am at 2:26 am |
  8. Cat down the street

    Sue Bush on Peoples court...what a bad week W awww..

    November 7, 2008 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  9. Ray Snarski

    That is sooo funny!!! A dog can sense when it's master does not like someone (even though it was with the trainer and not GB himself). My sister's dog once snapped at and bit a man whom she was speaking with that she did not particularly care for. Her dog never snapped or growled at anyone else. She was a meek and mild mannered dog. I think what is hilarious is that a reporter got bite by rhe white house dog. That to me is a commical turn of events. Makes one wonder who the real dog is!

    November 7, 2008 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  10. sam

    A very bad dog!

    November 7, 2008 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  11. give the dog a break

    Dogs are dogs and have individual personalities just like humans do. You cannot expect them to like everyone on any given day but it doesn't mean that dogs are bad. People are what make dogs bad. The reporter probably did something that the dog took offense to. Dogs should be treated with respect and not like stuffed toys. The world seems to have forgotten about animal husbandry which is one reason why we have such issues with dog bites, etc. It doesn't help that the animal rights folks keep pressing their negative agenda towards animals. They aren't here to help but to get rid of all companion animals. Don't let their rhetoric fool you. They are NOT a humane/welfare organization. They are an animal extermination organization.

    November 7, 2008 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  12. Tony Soprano

    Hey use guys....that dog should be put to sleep....... both dem dogs.


    You wanna do a good job of reporting the news ?


    That would be a scoop LOL.........

    November 7, 2008 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  13. Matt


    November 7, 2008 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  14. Al

    Will Mr.Bush and his cronies create a foundation for everybody guilty in Iraq invasion (including everybody voted for Bush) to submit voluntarily money to repay our country damage (and Iraq damage too)?

    November 7, 2008 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  15. Jeannette Zeagler

    I also have Scotties and they do give signals as to when one should not bother them. From the footage I saw, the reporter did not pay any attention to the fact that Barney had his ears down and back. Also one does not come down on top of the head to pat any dog, It is considered a threat. Barney considered his actions a threat.

    November 7, 2008 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  16. cj

    Very nice Barney, keep them all honest.

    November 7, 2008 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  17. Nile

    Okay the dog got better news coverage than the sitting president . . . slow news day?

    November 7, 2008 03:14 am at 3:14 am |
  18. Tom

    HAHAHA finally the liberal media gets stood up to by the Bush administration. GOOD DOG!!!!!!!

    November 7, 2008 03:17 am at 3:17 am |
  19. D

    Don't stop there Barney!!!!

    November 7, 2008 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  20. julio

    Speaking of dogs, President elect Obama should consider a Tibetan Terrier. This breed is adorable just like my dad's Sammy. A very loyal breed.

    November 7, 2008 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  21. chuckles199

    bush should have gotten a kennel of dogs and a lot sooner.
    the media in this country are a national disgarce.

    November 7, 2008 03:27 am at 3:27 am |
  22. Kate

    Figures that Bush's dog would be a biter. Has the man touched anything that has not then gone down the tube?

    November 7, 2008 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  23. rich

    Well. what would motivate Barney to bite Decker? One can only surmise that Decker is upset with the thumping the Republicans got on Tuesday and did not like being queried about his reactions. Certainly being replaced as the first dog probably did not sit too well with him as well. But in typical Bush fashion, he unilaterally lashed out. Only because this is his reported first offense I would not recommend him being put down, but I trust he will learn manners and cat behavior next time around.

    November 7, 2008 03:31 am at 3:31 am |
  24. mary

    If that had been any other dog it would have been put down.

    November 7, 2008 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  25. Governor E. Collins, abk Nigeria.

    Decker very sorry cos Barney is angry bcos it wil soon leave white house 4 MALIA & SASHA's pet 2 take over its place. Barney take tins easy cos life continue after white house.

    November 7, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
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