Nov 1 1990

Bloody Journalism

“In forceful terms, Mr. Bush sought to prepare the whole American nation for the prospect of bloodshed,” wrote R.W. “Johnny” Apple in an August 12 analysis of the president’s speech on Iraq. Apple, one of the New York Times’ top political analysts wrote approvingly of Bush’s message that “American soldiers and American hostages may have to die,” referring to the president as “tough,” “determined” and “statesmanlike.” (Apple described Saddam Hussein as “wiggling and squirming.”)

Apple wrote in a strikingly similar vein on the Panama invasion (12/21/89), declaring that Bush had completed “a presidential initiation rite” joining “American leaders who since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest… Panama has shown him as a man capable of bold action.”

Apple’s fascination with shedding blood may not always have been vicarious, according to The Boys on the Bus, Timothy Crouse’s 1973 book on campaign journalism. “Returning to New York from the Times’ Saigon Bureau, Apple announced that he had killed several Vietcong,” Crouse wrote. “In 1966, when we first arrived in Saigon, he had aspired to be ‘Combat Johnny,’ wearing a German brush cut, talking tough, and bragging about the number of VC he had killed.”

“I never did any such thing,” Apple told Extra!, “and I never said any such thing.”