Nelson Mandela, former South African president and global anti-oppression icon, has been released from a hospital in Pretoria where he has been ailing since June. He will continue his difficult recovery from home.
But in a statement earlier this morning, George H.W. Bush (or the people running his website) jumped the gun on Mandela's death with a pre-written statement:
"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."
Mandela's representatives maintain that the 95-year-old leader remains very much with us. "It is clearly incorrect," presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told reporters.
George H.W. Bush's people admitted their mistake shortly afterwards:
The 41 stmnt sent this morning was the result of my mis-reading the header on the WaPo news flash. Stupid mistake by me. Apologies to all.
— Jim McGrath (@jgm41) September 1, 2013
Mandela remains in critical condition, but will attempt to recover in the confines of his home, away from an encampment of press that have surrounded his hospital since he fell gravely ill in June. Several news companies, as well as public representatives, have already prepared obituaries for the famous leader (as is the custom with any major public figure), and they're ready to be published the second the news of his death breaks.
But for the moment, Nelson Mandela is still with us.