Olivia Pope, television phenom and Washington fixer extraordinaire, seems to have found a fan in George H.W. Bush.
Pope, the Kerry Washington character, is inspired by real-life crisis management pro Judy Smith, a consultant on the ABC show and one-time special assistant to Bush.
When the show departed from Smith’s own biography and showed Pope having an affair with the president, who as a Navy veteran and scion of a wealthy Republican political family is a Bush-like figure, Smith felt that she had to give the now 90-year-old former president a heads up.
“I had to quickly call President Bush to help frame the message. To help form the narrative before he heard from anyone else,” she told a crowd gathered Friday at the Nantucket Project, a conference on art and commerce, hours after the fourth season of the show premiered.
So Smith called Bush’s office, where they said he was proud of her and couldn’t wait to see the show. She insisted, however, that she needed to talk to him to explain something.
When he called back, she was in the middle of work and couldn’t pick up, but he left a message: “Love you. Want you. You left me! And by the way, this is the former leader of the free world. Call me.”
She called him back to say, “See? This is why I’m calling you now, you need some talking points!”
He replied, “I’m going to confirm the affair…I have young people working in my office now. They said I need to stay relevant, it’s good for my reputation.”
“I said, ‘Look now, if you don’t stay on these messages, I am going to call your boss,’” Smith remembers saying.
“You wouldn’t call Barbara, would you?,” the former president asked.