Jenna reflects on dad George W. Bush's reaction to her famous tongue photo

Jenna shared the former president's surprising reaction after she was famously caught sticking her tongue out at reporters during his 2004 campaign.
/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Jenna Bush Hager can still remember the sinking feeling in 2004 when she saw her face on television giving a raspberry to members of the media during a stop on the reelection campaign of her father.

Luckily, the TODAY with Hoda & Jenna co-host had nothing to fear from George W. Bush after the photo made headlines.

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Jenna shared her father's reaction to the infamous picture of her sticking her tongue out at reporters while she chatted with Andy Cohen on "Watch What Happens Live" on Tuesday.

"I was with my dad and my sister, and I was like, 'People don't even know what's going on in here, like watch this,''' Jenna said. "And Barbara and I constantly harassed (my father) and tried to make him laugh, and then I was down in the hotel gym doing the elliptical and I looked up on the TV and there was like my little face with a spotlight on it, and it was on the local news.

"I was like, 'Oh no, I better get back up to the hotel room and tell Dad that this thing went out.'"

Bush treated it like Jenna just being Jenna.

Jenna said she was just trying to make her father laugh when she stuck out her tongue at reporters in 2004 during George W. Bush's reelection campaign. Stephanie S. Cordle / AP

"My dad was just like, 'Jen, this is so typical,''' she said. "He thought it was funny. I think he really wanted Barbara and I to have normal childhoods, and we did until he became president."

Jenna and her twin sister, Barbara, had been in the spotlight a few years earlier after incidents while both were in college. Jenna was cited for possession of alcohol as a minor and using a fake ID to purchase alcohol within a five-week span in 2001 as a University of Texas student during her father's first term, while Barbara was charged with possession of alcohol as a minor that same year while attending Yale University.

"There's no guidebook, but his whole thing was like, 'Y'all can be normal college kids. You go be you,' and then he realized pretty soon after that that we really couldn't be normal college kids," Jenna said. "His reactions were always filled with grace and love. He wasn't the type to shame us for acting silly."

Jenna reflected on TODAY in March about what it was like enduring the glare of the public spotlight after the incidents in college.

"While we were growing up, I for one had parents that let us fail, let us fall and publicly,'' she said. "And I always say to them now, 'How brave of you,' because it didn't reflect great on them, either."

Bush surprisingly apologized to his daughter after she gave her own tearful apology to him.

"He apologized to me because what we wanted more than anything was to just be normal college kids,'' she said. "So he always would say, 'No, you can be normal.' He also wanted to give us what we wanted, some space and to grow, and also I think he wanted to give us the chance to make mistakes, not so publicly.

"He said, 'I'm sorry. I promised you you could be normal, and this isn't normal.'"

Jenna also spoke with Cohen about the first time she realized her childhood was not normal. She and her sister had just attended the 1989 inauguration ceremony for her grandfather, former president George H.W. Bush, in their first trip from their home in Dallas to Washington, D.C.

"My sister actually thought all grandfathers had inaugurations because our grandpa just was so kind and humble and didn't act like he was more important than anybody else," Jenna said. "So we got home and she was like, 'Angie, when is your grandfather's inauguration?' and she was so disappointed to find out it was really a one-person thing."