Bush spokesman apologizes for premature Mandela condolences

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(CNN) — A spokesman for former President George H.W. Bush apologized Sunday for mistakenly sending condolences for the passing of Nelson Mandela, even though the former South African president is alive and was discharged from the hospital later in the day.

Jim McGrath explained via Twitter that the statement he sent was the result of misreading the headline on a news flash from The Washington Post. “Stupid mistake by me. Apologies to all,” he wrote.

At 5:16 a.m. ET, The Washington Post sent out a news alert with the headline: “Nelson Mandela discharged from hospital; condition still critical.” McGrath sent out a statement “on the death of Nelson Mandela” shortly before 9 a.m. ET

“Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know,” read the first line of the e-mail.

Earlier in the day, McGrath at first defended the move saying he sent the statement based off a report from the news organization. “We have no independent verification of events in South Africa,” he said in a statement to CNN.

But later he admitted to misreading the report and rushing to send out the condolences. He told The Washington Post in an interview that he misread the word “discharge.”

“I apologize, because I know a put a lot of people into a modestly stressful position, which is never my intent for my friends in the media,” McGrath said “So I’m sorry about that. A massive egg on my face, I’m so sorry.”

Around noon, he again tweeted: “The mistake was mine and not the Bushes.”