Mulallys Bush Saga Invades Blogosphere

by : Lauren Woods

In the age of weblogs, anything could scatter like wildfire on the blogosphere. Even those stories that are intended to create boisterous laughter could spin out of control. No one knows that fact well enough than Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Alan Mulally.

At the New York auto show last Wednesday, Mulally told a mass of journalists that he stepped in to prevent President Bush from possibly plugging an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of Ford's hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid during the flex vehicle demonstration at the White House which happened on March 28.

"I just thought, 'Oh my goodness!' So, I started walking faster, and the president walked faster and he got to the cord before I did. I violated all the protocols. I touched the president. I grabbed his arm and I moved him up to the front," Mulally said. "I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen," he said to roars of laughter.

Within hours after the tale was spoken, the same was picked up by Additionally, Detroit News ran a three-paragraph account of Mulally's comments Saturday in the Business Insider column. "Credit Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally with saving the leader of the free world from self-immolation," The News item began.

Soon afterward, hundreds of blogs wrote about the incident and many linking to the item on The News Web site, which has received more than 250,000 hits. In the blogosphere, the story became fodder for humorists, conspiracy theorists, hydrogen haters and liberals who like to portray Bush as a bumbling buffoon.

The White House had little to say regarding the matter. "My understanding is the Ford Motor Company has clarified this and there is no need to say anything else," White House spokesman Alex Conant said. Ford officials met with White House officials Tuesday to apologize for the brouhaha. They have stressed that Mulally was not trying to make fun of the president.

The London-based Financial Times newspaper wrote a clear-cut account on the matter. "U.S. President George W. Bush's critics should count their blessings. Dick Cheney, vice president, might have taken up residence in the White House by now were it not for some quick thinking by Alan Mulally," the paper wrote.

Todd Lassa, the Motor Trend Detroit Editor, chided journalists and bloggers alike in a Tuesday online editorial for not checking the videotape against Mulally's account before publishing stories. "The fact is that anyone who has stayed awake through a college journalism class knows something about looking at evidence, reporting, and weeding out what is not fact," he wrote.

In an e-mail, Lassa intimated: "He said what he said, and I have the recording to prove it But I think we all need to back off this blogmania a bit, and take the time to double-check the facts."

Richard Hanley, the assistant professor of interactive communication and graduate director of journalism at Quinnipiac University, said that once news proliferates through the Internet, "It's like a joke that goes around the world. It shows the absurdity and self-inflated importance of blogs that often undermines serious discussion of issues."

Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt said Mulally thought it was funny and showed it a couple of times in internal meetings before the auto show appearance. So when Mulally told the story in New York, he picked up on the humor of Kimmel's parody and embellished the story a bit. While Mulally did lead Bush over to the vehicle, the president was never in danger and Mulally did not actually mean to imply otherwise, Hoyt said. "He did not think it would be taken seriously," Hoyt furthermore emphasized.

But bloggers and other netizens have a field day with Mulally's tale. The, a partisan website, reported the incident under the headline "Bush Nearly Turned a Hydrogen Car into the Hindenberg." The Wonkette, a famed gossip blog, posted this headline: "George W. Bush Makes His Own Car Bomb." The Huffington Post declared: "Bush Almost Blows Himself Up."

Indeed, the blogosphere is rather hot to handle that even the breeze from could not staunch.