Elisabeth Bumiller (born May 15, 1956) is an American author and journalist who is the Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times.
Born in Aalborg, Denmark, to a Danish mother and American father, Bumiller moved to the U.S. when she was three years old. She moved to Cincinnati, where she graduated from Walnut Hills High School in 1974, and was inducted into their Alumni Hall of Fame on April 30, 2011.1 She is a 1977 graduate of Northwestern University and in 1979 of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
She was a reporter for the Washington Post in Washington, New Delhi, Tokyo, and New York, before joining the New York Times.
She has been married since 1983 to Steven R. Weisman, also a former White House correspondent, who reported from India and Japan for the New York Times and is now editorial director and public policy fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The couple have two children.
Bumiller was the Times' White House correspondent from September 10, 2001 until 2007. She has been criticized, along with other White House reporters, for not questioning George W. Bush aggressively during a press conference in the run-up to the Iraq war. Bumiller said, on the press conference in 2003 on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq:
I think we were very deferential because ... it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you're standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.2
In 2003, in an article headlined "Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Heights," she wrote of the president's famous "Mission Accomplished" speech, "George W. Bush's Top Gun landing on the deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln will be remembered as one of the most audacious moments of presidential theater in American history," and described it as "the latest example of how the Bush administration [is] going far beyond the foundations in stagecraft set by the Reagan White House."3
At a panel discussion sponsored by Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism on November 4, 2004, in Washington, D.C., Bumiller stated, "You can't just say the president is lying." Speaking about the challenges of presenting balanced news reporting, she had earlier said,
"That’s why it’s very hard to write those, because you can’t say George Bush is wrong here. There’s no way you can say that in the New York Times. So we contort ourselves up and say, “Actually”— I actually once wrote this sentence: “Mr. Bush’s statement did not exactly....” It was some completely upside down statement that was basically saying he wasn’t telling the truth."
When the moderator asked shortly after why she couldn't "just say the president is lying," she responded,
"You can in an editorial, but I’m sorry, you can’t in a news column. Mr. Bush is lying?...You can say Mr. Bush’s statement was not factually accurate. You can’t say the president is lying—that’s a judgment call."4
She is the author of May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons: A Journey Among the Women of India, a study of women's roles in 1980s Indian society, which was a national bestseller, and The Secrets of Mariko, a book focusing on the inner workings of a Japanese family during a year in the early 1990s.
In 2007, Bumiller went on leave to write a biography of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, published by Random House in December 2007.5 During that period, she was a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund. The book, which was based on extensive interviews with Rice as well as 150 other sources, portrays Rice catering to Bush's desire to invade Iraq, and it describes her being taken completely by surprise when Hamas won the Palestinian elections.6 She returned to the paper full time in October 2007.
- Walnut Hills High School - Alumni Hall of Fame Dinner
- War Room: A White House farewell letter, By Tim Grieve, Salon, June 5, 2006
- "Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Heights," by Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, May 16, 2003
- "You Can't Just Say the President is Lying," Extra!, January/February 2005
- War Room – Salon.com
- Jump on the Peace Train, by Maureen Dowd, New York Times, November 28, 2007