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Bush on Brokeback: 'Haven't Seen It'

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Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal shouldn’t expect a White House invitation anytime soon.

Fielding questions from students on Monday after he delivered an address at Kansas State University, President Bush was asked about this year’s most honored movie, Brokeback Mountain, which stars the two actors as cowboys who fall in love with each other.

“You’re a rancher,” a young man in the crowd of thousands of students and professors said to the president. “A lot of us here in Kansas are ranchers. I was just wanting to get your opinion on Brokeback Mountain, if you’ve seen it yet.”

As the crowd erupted in laughter, President Bush was reported to have flinched, then responded: “I haven’t seen it. I’ll be glad to talk about ranching, but I haven’t seen the movie.”

The young questioner would not be dismissed. “You would love it,” he told Bush. “You should check it out.”

“I’ve heard about it,” the president admitted. “I hope you go – you know.”

Once again the hall filled with laughter, of the nervous variety. Even the president reportedly appeared to chuckle, before clarifying his remark. “I hope you go back to the ranch and the farm is what I’m about to say,” Bush said.

Ledger and Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain
Further clarifying the president’s statement, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan e-mailed the Los Angeles Times: “The student indicated he was a rancher. The president was simply saying he hopes he goes back to the ranch. Ranchers and farmers are an important part of our society.”

To date, director Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, which is being eyed as a heavy Oscar favorite, has been named best picture at the Golden Globes and by the Producers Guild, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association.

As of last weekend, it has made $42.1 million and had a very successful last weekend in two theaters in Waco, Texas, the closest city to Bush’s Crawford ranch, a theater manager tells the L.A. Times. In fact, he said, it was last week’s second most popular film in the multiplex.