Press Missed ‘Mission Accomplished’ Meaning, Says Bush Staffer

ABC News’ Tahman Bradley Reports:

The man responsible for the visual production of the 2003 “mission accomplished” speech given by President George W. Bush aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln says the media mischaracterized the president’s message that day.

It’s one of the most iconic and controversial moments of the Bush presidency.

On May 1, 2003, President Bush landed a fixed-wing aircraft aboard the Abraham Lincoln and then addressed Navy personnel returning from combat operations in the Persian Gulf.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo


The president delivered his televised remarks in front of a giant sign that said “mission accomplished.”

In an interview on the Sirius XM program “PoliOptics”, deputy assistant to President Bush for communications Scott Sforza said that people who were not aboard the ship do not understand the meaning of “mission accomplished,” but those who were there do.

“I think that the press really mischaracterized the entire event,” Sforza told host Adam Belmar. “And I say this because we personally met with those on the ship, and the intent of the message that was put on the ship ‘mission accomplished’ was really aimed at the families on the shore.”

The men and women aboard the Abraham Lincoln were returning home after being deployed for 11 months, much longer than the typical 5-6 months, Sforza said.

No one aboard the Naval vessel voiced any concern to Bush administration staffers that day about the “mission accomplished” banner because everyone understood the context of the message.

“If you ever play back the tape, roll back the audio of what the president said at no time did he ever say that that was the end of military action,” said Storza.

But President Bush did announce an end to major combat operations in Iraq.

He said, “In the battle of Iraq, the United States and are allies have prevailed.”

It was that declaration that Bush critics and critics of war used against the president for rest of his time in office.

The Iraqi insurgency would pick up in the months and years following the speech costing the lives of thousands of Americans.

In fact, the last U.S. combat troops would not leave Iraq until 2010 under Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama.

Sforza is not the first Bush staffer to argue the “mission accomplished” message got mangled. In April 2008, Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino told reporters the banner should have been more specific.