Bush miffed over Web parody

Thursday, May27, 1999 -- (BOSTON AP) - Zack Exley, a 29-year-old computer consultant from Somerville, thinks politicians have reason to fear the Internet.

He may be right, given his own experience with a Web site parodying politics he put up several months ago.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush's treatment of the parody Web site backfired on him in a Texas-sized way.

Exley grabbed the unused ``gwbush.com'' domain name several months ago and put up a site satirizing the Bush campaign for president.

An angry Bush, considered the front-runner for the GOP nomination, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission and denounced Exley as ``a garbage man.''

The parody George W. Bush Web site has gotten 6,451,466 hits during the first 25 days of May, thanks in part to the story's front-page treatment by The New York Times online edition, Exley said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the real George W. Bush Web site has gotten about 30,000 hits in May, according to Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker.

``Sometimes politicians don't know when to shut up,'' said Michael Goldman, a political consultant working with Democratic presidential contender Bill Bradley.

Bush might have been wiser to emulate his father, George Bush, who has good-naturedly mimicked impressionist Dana Carvey's imitations of himself.

Instead, the younger Bush lashed out at the Web site in a Friday news conference.

``There ought to be limits to freedom,'' he said. ``We're aware of the site, and this guy is just a garbage man.''

Exley, an independent computer consultant, said he has since received hundreds of e-mails running 2-to-1 against Bush's perceived assault of freedom of speech on the Internet.

``He didn't realize if he just ignored us, we'd have no impact on his campaign at all,'' said Exley, who proclaims equal dislike for the Republican and Democratic candidates for president.

The parody Web site looks like the real ``www.georgewbush.com'' Web site. Unlike the Bush Web site, however, it prominently displays Bush's ``limits to freedom'' quotation and describes him as an ``unsuccessful Texas businessman'' who was ``bailed out with millions of dollars from friends of his Vice-President father.''

Tucker said the George W. Bush Presidential Exploratory Committee was worried that people would misconstrue the parody Web site for the genuine article.

``My concern is not that people are viewing it, but that they're viewing it in the right context,'' she said.

Tucker said she recently got a phone call from a reporter working for a major metropolitan newspaper asking for a comment on Bush's proposal to ``free all grown-ups from prison,'' a feature of the parody Web site.

One analyst called the flap much ado about nothing.

``The Internet is still relatively insignificant,'' said University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato. He said most people get their information about politics from television, newspapers and magazines, and friends and families, in that order.

Exley doesn't think so.

``The Internet makes it possible for the ordinary citizen to be heard in a new way,'' he said. ``That's terrifying for incumbent politicians, because they rely on the money from corporations, or their own money, to talk the loudest,'' he said.