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Jenna Bush Hager: Former First Dog Barney 'was a real jerk'

Dec. 5, 2013 at 1:05 PM ET

Video: The Obama family dog Sunny jumped on a 2-year-old girl at a White House event yesterday, pushing the child to the ground. But Jenna Bush Hager says the Bush family dog, Barney, was “a real jerk” and recalls such unfortunate examples as the time Barney bit a reporter.

Presidential pooch Sunny grabbed a few headlines for causing a 2-year-old to fall to the floor Wednesday at the White House. But at least the pup was just being playful. According to a true White House insider, Sunny's presidential predecessor, Barney, was something less than man's best friend.

Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former President George W. Bush, put it more bluntly on TODAY Thursday: “Barney was a real jerk,” she said.

Say it isn’t so! The midnight Scottish terrier that roamed the White House during the administration of our 43rd president?

"He was a little temperamental," Hager said, drawing gasps from TODAY anchors Willie Geist and Al Roker. "I feel bad saying that, but he didn’t like strangers.”  

Pete Souza
Harry Truman said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Plenty of presidents did, and other pets besides.

Sad to say, Barney also was a biter. Not only did he bite a reporter (“Your dad probably thought he deserved it,” Al Roker quipped) but he also bit a family friend — twice, once when the friend gave him a little spank.

Willie Geist offered a rationalization. “So he deserved it,” he told Jenna. “I can’t believe you’re smearing Barney this morning. That’s terrible. Wonderful little dog.”

May he rest in peace, too. Barney passed away earlier this year, succumbing to lymphoma Feb. 1 at the age of 12.

In fairness, Barney isn't the only presidential pet who's ever gotten into trouble. For example, Bill Clinton’s chocolate Labrador, Buddy, was once caught on camera relieving himself on the carpet.

But that’s nothing compared to the international incident nearly created by Ronald Reagan's dog. Photographers caught Lucky, a Bouvier des Flandres, dragging Reagan across the White House lawn in front of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during a diplomatic visit.