News outlets were surprised to receive a statement early Sunday morning from former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, expressing condolences at the death of Nelson Mandela.
The 95-year-old South African leader has been in a Pretoria hospital for three months with a recurring lung infection and was still listed in “critical condition” when he was discharged to his Johannesburg home Sunday. But no one has reported his death.
The statement sent social media sites into a frenzy. Did the Bushes know something we don't?
Turns out, it was all a mistake, as longtime Bush spokesman Jim McGrath tweeted about a few minutes after the condolence statement went out.
President Bush 41 statement on Nelson Mandela sent after seeing Wash Post news flash. We have no independent verification.— Jim McGrath (@jgm41) September 1, 2013
— Jim McGrath (@jgm41) September 1, 2013
In the statement, Bush expressed great praise for Mandela.
Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know. As President, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment — setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all. He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country. Barbara and I had great respect for President Mandela, and send our condolences to his family and countrymen."
South Africa presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj called the initial claim by Bush's office "incorrect."
"We see it as an error on his side and not make a big deal about it," Maharaj said in a statement.