That's Tipper Gore, America's second lady, and she's shoveling more than mud in a Hurricane Mitch-ravaged town in Honduras. Despite their self-styled adversarial role, the major U.S. media chose not to explore the Potemkin Village theatrics necessary for the heartwarming snapshot. Instead, it was up to sources such as London's The Independent and The Drudge Report to explain that there was more to Mrs. Gore's November trip than met the eye.
According to The Independent's Phil Davison, Gore's press secretary briefed reporters on the details of the photo op, even explaining that Tipper would toss exactly eight shovelfuls of mud before pausing to wipe the sweat from her brow. Not that everything went off as planned: Some villagers mistook the second lady for the late Princess Diana, and Tipper herself almost threw off the plan when she paused in front of an old woman moving mud from in front of her home and asked aloud, "Is this where I'm supposed to shovel?" (Her Nicaragua stop was almost as much fun: Relief supplies were commandeered from a private donor so she'd have something to give away, and a network cameraman slugged a White House press officer.)
But not to worry. The press printed the right picture. In fact, Davison reports, Tipper's press secretary even helped a camera crew "clamber up the [mud] pile for the perfect shot."