Continued from page 2

Mr. Allen declined to comment for this story.

Larry J. Sabato, politics professor at the University of Virginia and author of “Feeding Frenzy,” a book about the press seizing on storylines, said the turkey story fits the mold of a feeding frenzy.

“The toughest stories to rebut or refute are those that reinforce a subtext that press and public have adopted about a president,” he said, adding that the press had such a subtext about Mr. Bush and Iraq. “This falls into the category of ‘too good to check.’ That’s usually the case for false or silly subtext stories.”

Mr. Sabato said it reminded him of other instances, such as when Mr. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, was mocked for showing wonder at an advanced grocery store price scanner, which became a metaphor for being out of touch, or when President Carter had an unfortunate encounter with a rabbit while fishing on vacation and it became a metaphor for being under siege.

“These myths have a kind of eternal life. You can knock them down for a while, but they always come back to life,” Mr. Sabato said.

Mr. Bartlett said the fake-turkey story appealed to Bush critics in the media and politics “who wanted to question his integrity at every step of the way.” He said Mr. Bush isn’t the only president to face that, and said President Obama has faced some of it himself. But he said the fact that it happened over a turkey was stunning.

“It was just amazing the lengths they would go to,” he said. “I’m trying to think of anything that even rivals that element of just craziness. The fact that it did have currency so long. That was one of those head-scratchers.”

Mr. Bush and the turkey became so iconic that they were immortalized in a plastic toy — the George W. Bush pull-string turkey doll. The photo, meanwhile, is still published, including this by the Economist magazine this week, which attached it to a story about Americans celebrating Thanksgiving abroad. The magazine did not question the bird’s authenticity.