When The Simpsons first came on the air in December of 1989, there was no telling just how massive it would become in American popular culture. While reviews were generally favorable, the cartoon was controversial from the get-go and the First Family didn't much care for it at the time. First Lady Barbara Bush, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 92, once called the show "the dumbest thing I've ever seen," writes The Hollywood Reporter. Her husband George H.W. Bush, President of the United States at the time, reportedly wasn't a big fan either.
Soon after, Barbara received a heartfelt letter from Marge Simpson (voiced by Julie Kavner on the show), which had been written by the series staff. Dated September 28, 1990, less than a year after the show aired, Marge "wrote" that she was "deeply hurt" by Bush's "criticism" of her family.
"Heaven knows we're far from perfect and if truth be known, maybe just a wee bit short of normal; but as Dr. Seuss says, 'a person is a person.'
I try to teach my children Bart, Lisa, and even little Maggie, always to give somebody the benefit of the doubt, and not talk badly about them, even if they're rich. It's hard to get them to understand this advice when the very First Lady in the country calls us not only dumb, but the 'dumbest thing she ever saw.' Ma'am, if we're the dumbest thing you ever saw, Washington must be a good deal different than what they teach me at the current events group in church.
I always believed in my heart that we had a great deal in common. Each of us living our lives to serve an exceptional man. I hope there is some way out of this controversy. I thought, perhaps, it would be a good start to just speak my mind.
With great respect,
Less than a month later, the staff received a presidential reply/apology, which arrived on October 9, 1990 from Barbara herself. Simpsons producer/writer Al Jean shared the letter on Twitter today:
How kind of you to write. I'm glad you spoke your mind; I foolishly didn't know you had one.
I am looking at a picture of you, depicted on a plastic cup with your blue hair filled with pink birds peeking out all over. Evidently, you and your charming family--Lisa, Homer, Bart, and Maggie--are camping out. It is a nice family scene. Clearly you are setting a good example for the rest of the country.
Please forgive a loose tongue
P.S. Homer looks like a handsome fella!"
President and Barbara Bush both appeared on The Simpsons in the 1996 episode "Two Bad Neighbors." The episode parodies Dennis the Menace as the couple moves in across the street from the Simpsons. Bart annoys George (Harry Shearer) to no end by accidentally shredding the president's memoirs and when Homer walks in on the former leader of the free world spanking his son, he sparks a feud between himself and Bush.
Finally, after several retaliations, Barbara (Tress MacNeille) — who took a liking to Bart from the start — forces her husband to apologize to the Simpsons. The Bushes end up moving out and Gerald Ford moves in, a man who is much more Homer's speed, inviting him over to watch a football game, drink beer, and eat nachos.