This Is Not Bush’s First Torture Scandal – Branding of Frat Pledges at Yale Caused Second-Degree Burns, Permanent Scars

Late on Friday, April 11, George Bush confirmed to ABC News that he had approved torture guidelines for use by CIA interrogators that had been developed by senior administration officials.

The branding resulted in a second-degree burn that left a half-inch scab in the shape of the Greek letter Delta.

This came 24 hours after Jonathan Turley, a constitutional expert who argued the pro-impeachment side on cable shows during the Clinton era, described the drafting of the guidelines as a war crime on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”

Meetings among top Bush officials to design the torture regimen began in 2002. Attendees included Bush, Dick Cheney, Sec. of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft, CIA Director George Tenet, and their aides.

Naturally, this has received scant treatment on cable news and has yet to be covered in the New York Times or Los Angeles Times. It has not been discussed on the Sunday political shows and was not mentioned in the Democratic debate, which was hosted by ABC News, the same news organization that got Bush to admit on the record that he approved the alleged war crimes.

As it happens, this is not George Bush’s first torture scandal:

Cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who has skewered politicians for decades in his comic strip “Doonesbury,’ tells Rolling Stone magazine he remembers Yale classmate George W. Bush as “just another sarcastic preppy who gave people nicknames and arranged for keg deliveries.”

“Even then he had clearly awesome social skills … He could also make you feel extremely uncomfortable … He was extremely skilled at controlling people and outcomes in that way. Little bits of perfectly placed humiliation.”
— Garry Trudeau

Trudeau attended Yale University with Bush in the late 1960s and served with him on a dormitory social committee.

“Even then he had clearly awesome social skills,” Trudeau said. “He could also make you feel extremely uncomfortable … He was extremely skilled at controlling people and outcomes in that way. Little bits of perfectly placed humiliation.”

Trudeau said he penned his very first cartoon to illustrate an article in the Yale Daily News on Bush and allegations that his fraternity, DKE, had hazed incoming pledges by branding them with an iron.

The article in the campus paper prompted The New York Times to interview Bush, who was a senior that year. Trudeau recalled that Bush told the Times “it was just a coat hanger, and … it didn’t hurt any more than a cigarette burn”

“It does put one in mind of what his views on torture might be today,” Trudeau said.

In 1999, the tabloid Star magazine reported on Bush’s college torture scandal:

George W. Bush in Torture Scandal
by Richard Gooding
Star, July 27, 1999
Special Star Investigation

Presidential candidate George W. Bush once led a Yale fraternity that barbarically branded its new members on their backsides with a red-hot metal rod as part of a sadistic hazing practice.
“When they burned me,” Levy remembers, “I jumped a mile.”
“I got branded and I didn’t like it one bit,” Professor Bradford Lee of the elite Naval War College in Newport, R.I.-an ex-football player and onetime member of Bush’s Delta Epsilon Kappa fraternity-told STAR in an exclusive interview.

“It did burn,” he says, recalling the terrifying experience. “I think I still have the mark on me.”

Bush, the oldest son of former President George Bush, is now the runaway front-runner for the Republican nomination for president. His campaign stresses responsible individual behavior, family values and compassion for one’s fellow citizens.

But a STAR investigation has revealed that he was president of Delta Epsilon Kappa when the hazing scandal broke in the campus newspaper in the late ’60s-leading to the fraternity being fined and the branding practice halted.

Amazingly, Bush, now the governor of Texas, defended the illegal torture of the young fraternity pledges at the time as a harmless prank-insisting that it was comparable to “only a cigarette burn” which left “no scarring mark physically or mentally.”

But others said the branding resulted in a second-degree burn that left a half-inch scab in the shape of the Greek letter Delta.

Lee-who still bears the mark 32 years later-is not sure who actually wielded the brand because the pledges were not allowed to look at their tormentors. “But I do know that George Bush was very active in all the fraternity activities then.”

Lee, who was a guard on the Yale football team, recalled that the branding came after “a long initiation that went on into the early morning hours.”

He says the idea was to wear you out so much that you allowed your bare flesh to be singed. “I was already tired from football practice earlier that day. I was so groggy I wasn’t exactly sensitive to what they were up to. I wasn’t very happy about it.”

The branding was a key reason why Lee quit the fraternity after just one year. “It got things off on a sour note, you might say,” he notes.

Bill Katz, now a community college teacher in northern New Jersey, told STAR that the branding was done with “a wire coat hanger twisted into a triangle and heated up” in the fireplace.

“They touched you just above the buttocks, in the small of the back,” he says.

And Boston lawyer Franklin Levy said that to increase the fear of the moment, the older fraternity men first brandished an actual glowing hot branding iron-to make them think that was what awaited them.

“When they burned me,” Levy remembers, “I jumped a mile.”

Before the brandings, pledges had to endure hours of being kicked and a vicious round of tannings with wooden paddles-another practice that Yale has ruled taboo.

“On that night,” according to an account in the Yale Daily News in 1967, ‘each pledge was forced to sit with his head between his legs, motionless, for two to five hours.

“If he coughed, raised his hand or talked, he was kicked by an older brother.” After all the beatings, recalled one fraternity member, the branding was almost a relief.

In the wake of the Yale Daily News’ expose of the fraternity’s hazing, Bush, whose father was also a DKE at Yale, admitted the branding to the New York Times in November 1967.

But Bush-whose college nickname was “Lip” for his Texas wisecracks-also ripped into Yale for being too “Haughty” to “allow this type of pledging to go on.”

Bush’s days and nights at Yale were mostly remembered as non-stop party and prank time by his former fraternity brothers. During his junior year, he was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in the theft of a Christmas wreath from a storefront to decorate the DKE house. At a football game against Princeton, he helped tear down a goal post and ended up being hauled to the campus police station.

“We drank heavily at DKE,” says Gregory Gallico, now a Boston plastic surgeon, as he recalled Bush and his other fraternity brothers. “It was absolutely off the wall-appalling.
“I cannot for the life of me figure out how we all made it through.

Here is the complete text of the New York Times story:

New York Times, Nov. 8, 1967, p. 80.

Branding Rite Laid to Yale Fraternity

New Haven, Nov. 7 — A Yale fraternity accused by the student newspaper of burning its initiates with a brand will have its fate decided Friday by student fraternity leaders.

The fraternity, Delta Kappa Episilon, could face the temporary closure of its house and a $1,000 fine resulting from the alleged violations of rules previously passed by the Inter-Fraternity Council, whic consists of Yale’s five fraternity presidents.

The charges against Delta Kappa Epsilon were made last Friday in a Yale Daily News article that accused campus fraternities of carrying on “sadistic and obscene” initiation procedures.

The charge that has caused the most controversy on the Yale campus is that Delta Kappa Epsilon applied a “hot branding iron” to the small of the back of its 40 new members in ceremonies two weeks ago. A photograph showing a scab in the shape of the Greek letter Delta, approximately half an inch waid, appeared in the article.

A former president of Delta [said] that branding is done with a hot coathanger. But the former president, George Bush, a Yale senior, said that the resulting wound is “only a cigarette burn.”

And then, of course, there are the uncorroborated allegations by retired dominatrice Leola McConnell in her book, Lustful Utterances, that she participated in a S&M sex in 1984 with Bush, whom she describes as “the simple minded bisexual son of the seated Vice President of the United States, George H W. Bush.”

H/t: Thanks to VRW for reminding me about this story and to Mark at for the link to the Trudeau interview.


  • Charles
    April 21, 2008 - 9:16 am | Permalink

    If Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were doing their job that they were elected to do…why are they not looking into and beginning impeachement process for Bush and Cheney. They are the reason the Democratic Party is in such trouble, not Hillary.

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  • September 6, 2008 - 2:38 pm | Permalink

    This is the article I was looking for 8 years ago when he was running. I was doing a research project for college and found this and much more dirt on that family like the fact that his mother, Barbra, is the daughter of Alister Crowley. Look into this stuff and you will find that their family tree doesn’t really fork. Even Obama is related to Cheney.

  • Bill Mosely
    October 27, 2008 - 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Bush needs to have his ass fried!!! And, I volunteer to fry his sorry ass. Forgive moi, am I being too personal?

  • October 23, 2010 - 10:04 am | Permalink

    Everything’s changing for our friendly neighbourhood serial killer.

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  • Kathy
    August 30, 2012 - 9:20 am | Permalink

    Gandolfo, the family is a nightmare but Barbara is not the daughter of Alister Crowley.
    If you go back several generations there are many opportunties to be related to anyone, esp in the US given recent immigration. Obama and Cheney take 11 generations, that includes quite a few people. If you go back many, many generations you will see we all came from Africa, we share mitrocondrial DNA. Why even you and I are related

  • October 21, 2013 - 5:46 pm | Permalink

    What exactly seriously encouraged you to compose
    “This Is Not Bush?s First Torture Scandal
    – Branding of Frat Pledges at Yale Caused Second-Degree Burns, Permanent Scars Pensito Review”?
    I actuallydefinitely loved it! Thank you ,Danilo

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