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

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.”

  • Slideshow Photos

    All the presidents’ pets

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

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    And then there were two -

    Bo, left, and Sunny, the Obama family's new puppy, are pictured on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington in this photo released on August 19, 2013 by the White House. The White House announced a new resident on Monday. Sunny, a one-year-old Portuguese Water Dog, moved into the Washington residence of President Barack Obama and his family, joining Bo, a male dog of the same breed, the White House announced on its website.

    Reuters
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    Bo knows politics -

    President Barack Obama runs alongside Bo, a six-month old male Portuguese water dog, in the White House April 12, 2009. The dog was a gift from Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and his wife, Victoria, to the Obama girls.

    Pete Souza / The White House
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    See Spot walk -

    George W. Bush’s dog Spot Fetcher follows the president toward the White House in June 2003. Named for Texas Rangers baseball player Scott Fletcher, the springer spaniel was the daughter of President George H.W. Bush’s dog Millie.)

    Manny Ceneta / AFP - Getty Images
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    Scot free -

    Scottish terrier Barney, First Dog in the George W. Bush White House, is blasé about the Christmas decorations Laura Bush is unveiling to the media in December 2003. The Bushes also have a second Scottie, Miss Beazley.

    Mark Wilson / Getty Images
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    Bubba and Buddy -

    President Bill Clinton gets an enthusiastic greeting from his chocolate Labrador retriever Buddy on the South Lawn of the White House in June 1999.

    Mario Tama / AFP-Getty Images
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    Socks appeal -

    Chelsea Clinton’s cat, Socks, appears nonplused by the demands of fame as photographers surround him outside the governor’s mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas soon after Bill Clinton was elected president in November 1992.

    Mike Nelson / AFP-Getty Images
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    Face time -

    Former president George H.W. Bush enjoys some face-to-face time with his wife Barbara’s springer spaniel, Millie, in Houston. The Bushes also kept one of Millie’s puppies, Ranger, as a pet.

    Cynthia Johnson / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images
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    Cavalier attitude -

    Nancy Reagan and her dog Rex are clearly glad to see each other as the first lady returns to the White House in April 1986. Rex was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, generally considered a toy breed.

    Karl Schumacher / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images
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    A stroke of Lucky -

    President Ronald Reagan pauses outside the White House to pet his dog Lucky in 1986. Lucky was a Bouvier des Flandres, a Flemish breed originally developed for cattle droving and sheep herding.

    Bill Fitzpatrick / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images
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    Play with Misty for me -

    President Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy, holds her cat, Misty, as she returns to the White House after a weekend with her parents at the Camp David presidential retreat in September 1977.

    AP
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    Give me Liberty -

    President Gerald R. Ford wrestles with his golden retriever, Liberty, in February 1975. The dog was a gift from Ford's daughter, Susan, and his personal photographer, David Hume Kennerly.

    David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images
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    Ireland, France, and Yorkshire -

    After Checkers passed away in 1964, Richard Nixon went on to the presidency and other pets: King Timahoe, an Irish setter; Vicky, a French poodle; and Pasha, a Yorkshire terrier, all shown here outside the White House in 1970.

    Getty Images
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    A Checkered past -

    On September 23, 1952, then-vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon defended his personal finances in a television address that became famously known as the “Checkers speech” (because Nixon said the only contribution he kept was the dog of that name). Nixon still had the cocker spaniel in 1964, when this photo was taken.

    Bob Gomel / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images
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    Fly like a beagle -

    President Lyndon Johnson raised controversy when he was photographed lifting one of his pet beagles, Him and Her, by the ears. Him sired a litter of puppies in 1965, and LBJ’s daughter kept two of them, Kim and Freckles, shown here in the president’s lap aboard Air Force One.

    AP
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    A passel of pets -

    Macaroni was far from the only pet in the JFK family. Here Caroline and John enjoy a veritable pack of pooches while vacationing with their parents.

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    Her little pony -

    Caroline Kennedy had something many young girls only dream of: her own pony. Here she sits atop Macaroni in March 1963 while her little brother John, her mother Jacqueline and President John F. Kennedy look on.

    John F. Kennedy Library via Getty Images
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    When a Feller needs a friend -

    In December 1947, President Harry S Truman received an unsolicited gift: a cocker spaniel puppy named Feller, who poses here by the crate he came in. The pup was adopted by Truman’s personal physician.

    William J. Smith / AP
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    A jolly good Fala -

    One of the most famous of all presidential pets was Franklin D. Roosevelt's beloved Fala. Here FDR takes the Scottish terrier for a ride through Hyde Park in 1944.

    George Skadding / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images
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    Hoover and his hound -

    President Herbert Hoover takes plenty of blame from historians for the Great Depression. But he had at least one loyal fan: his German shepherd, King Tut.

    AP
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    Cal and his collie -

    Rob Roy, a white collie, was just like a member of the family to Calvin Coolidge. The 30th president stands next to his pet in this photo from the 1920s, along with his wife, Grace, and their two sons.

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    Laddie and his daddy -

    Warren G. Harding, the 29th president of the United States, had an Airedale terrier named Laddie Boy. Here they pose for photographers outside the White House, circa 1923.

    Library Of Congress via Getty Images

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. 

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