In the March 21 Style section, a caption with the Reliable Source column erroneously described the CBS network's role regarding footage of President Bush being groomed for Wednesday's television address. CBS was the "pool" network providing the footage, but did not air it. (Published 3/22/03)
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The White House is vowing a strong retaliatory response after the BBC aired live video of President Bush getting his hair coiffed in the Oval Office as he squirmed in his chair and practiced on the teleprompter minutes before Wednesday night's speech announcing the launch of military operations against Saddam Hussein.
The British network broadcast 1 minute and 37 seconds of presidential primping to hundreds of millions of viewers in 200 countries around the world (and locally on WETA, Channel 26) before Bush's formal address at 10:15 p.m. Yesterday the BBC's White House producer, Mark Orchard, profusely and repeatedly apologized to irked staffers for airing video of an "unauthorized" portion of the pool feed while Washington anchor Mishal Husain chatted up a colleague about the significance of the moment.
CBS News Washington bureau chief Janet Leissner, whose news crew was responsible for pool coverage of the speech, also apologized to the White House, explaining that a technician accidentally flipped a switch that fed the images of a not-ready-for-prime-time Bush -- his eyes darting to and fro as a female stylist sprayed, combed and patted down his hair.
A BBC spokeswoman told us that her network promptly realized the video was not for broadcast "but they couldn't pull away because of technical difficulties." Meanwhile, we hear that in Britain, the commercial network ITV also aired the hair-raising feed.
"It was an honest mistake," Leissner told us yesterday -- but the Bushies were not impressed.
"The facts are that it was an unauthorized use of footage and video," a senior White House official told us, asking not to be named. "Both the BBC and CBS have apologized, and it would be understandable if this were the only time this has happened. I'm not suggesting it was intentional, but this kind of thing has happened more than once."
Henceforth, the official said, the White House -- not the networks -- will throw the switches that make pool feeds available to broadcast outlets. "There have been too many incidents," the official said, listing various presidential speeches allegedly marred by pool-feed glitches. "We have to make sure we are comfortable with the situation."
Sarandon's Mom, Getting Battle Support
* Self-described "rabid" Republican Lenora Tomalin, the 79-year-old mother of left-wing actress Susan Sarandon, has been getting her 15 minutes since Tuesday's item about her stout support for President Bush and the war against Saddam Hussein -- and her lament that her famous daughter doesn't respect her enough.
Radio and television stations have been calling to interview her, and friends and neighbors have been offering congratulations. "A lot of good has come out of it," she told us yesterday.
Yesterday morning, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush phoned Tomalin at home in Lakeland, Fla., to offer his help in arranging a tour of the White House on her next trip to Washington sometime in May. "Jeb said, 'We're going to make sure you get a very good visit,' " Tomalin said.
She added that her eldest daughter's companion, actor Tim Robbins, also called -- but apparently that conversation wasn't as happy.
"I didn't talk to Susan, but I did hear from Tim, let's just leave it at that," Tomalin said. "I know there's a war on, but let's just say I'm in the middle of my own private war."
Robbins, the father of three of Tomalin's 19 grandchildren, declined to comment yesterday. But Bush told us through a spokeswoman: "I called to thank her for supporting the president and for supporting me on my last campaign. She's a great American."
THIS JUST IN...
* War is hell -- even for former defense secretary Bill Cohen. On public radio's "The Savvy Traveler" today, Washington-to-New York shuttle passenger Judith Gilbert recounts that on Wednesday at Reagan National, Cohen "was pulled out of the line and brought over and given extra security. I think he had to take his shoes off and all of those other things, just at the boarding part. He was probably not amused by that." When reached by the radio show, folks at the Cohen Group, Cohen's consulting business, would neither confirm nor deny the incident.
* Retired computer technician Johnna Robinson, who has lived without any trouble on the same Bethesda street for 35 years, is looking for the person who stole the "No Iraq War" sign -- not once but twice -- from her snow-covered front yard a couple of weeks ago. She has a photo of the miscreant's footprints. "I live in a pretty liberal neighborhood," said the 70-year-old widow of CIA psychiatrist Kenneth Robinson. "About a week before the first sign was stolen, I had placed it in my yard close to the street. Friends were kind enough to give me a second one that I purposely placed 30 feet away from the street, closer to my house." She added: "Seemingly the footprint is around a size 6. Please help me, I don't know who else to turn to!" Addressing the mysterious thief, she said: "I think you are seriously misguided."
* Movie star Clint Eastwood will be in Silver Spring on April 4 to collect the American Film Institute's Silver Legacy Award -- for his contribution to the film industry -- and help the AFI celebrate the grand-reopening of its historic Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, which has just undergone a multimillion-dollar facelift.