The Presidential Broccoli Scandal You Probably Forgot About

People offer plenty of critiques of former President George H. W. Bush. One of them is about his visceral dislike of broccoli.

In 1990, The New York Times reported that Bush came out against the vegetable during a press conference. "I do not like broccoli," he declared. "And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli!" Journalists were questioning the president about the cruciferous vegetables amid rumors that he had banned broccoli from Air Force One, though AP reported that he had simply told the staff not to serve broccoli to him in particular.

After that, one would think, the matter would be laid to rest. However, based on a Bush quote compilation by Smart Politics, the president's hatred of broccoli would become a running joke throughout his presidency, with the politician quipping about it a whopping 70 times at official functions over the course of four years. When Bush died in 2018, many people thanked him for giving them a legitimate reason to refuse to eat the vegetable (via Today). Evidently, his comments made an impression.

Bush never changed his mind about broccoli

As one might imagine, farmers were not happy that their country's president was besmirching a key crop. So, as the LA Times reported in March of 1990, 10 tons of broccoli were sent to the White House along with a sheet of recipes using the vegetable. "Millie and I thank you for the broccoli. We'll eat it," former First Lady Barbara Bush said, accepting the gift on behalf of herself and the couple's dog. As for whether Bush himself came around? "If [the president's] own blessed mother can't make him eat broccoli, I give up," the first lady said. Most of the shipment was donated to a food bank.

By then, columnists everywhere were attempting to weave Bush's culinary dislike into a political message. The Gettysburg Times reported that broccoli was "the vegetable of the '80s," which put Bush "out of step" with the times. The article also points out that California farmers first began growing broccoli and shipping it east in the 1920s. This would presumably make Bush's mother one of the first people to try cooking broccoli, so perhaps her dishes tasted unappealing to Bush because there were simply not very many tips for preparing the vegetable at the time. Whatever the case may be, the president's eating habits clearly did not ruin broccoli for Americans, as their consumption of the vegetable tripled from 1980 to 2010, according to ABC News.