Unless you’ve been offline for the past few days you’ve likely read about the fact that, in the final episode of the first season of HBO’s Game of Thones, former President George W. Bush makes an appearance as a decapitated prop head on a stake. It’s a minor cameo — no one seemed to notice when the episode originally aired (on June 19, 2011) or when the season hit DVD (on March 6 of this year).

But a Reddit user pointed out that the commentary track for that episode featured producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss commenting on the fact that the prop head was made to resemble Bush, and the story blew up fast. The producers apologized, and HBO apologized, but that isn’t enough — HBO has pulled the episode from the HBO Go service and iTunes, and is halting shipments of the existing DVD and Blu-ray copies of the season.

The network said today,

We were deeply dismayed to see this and find it unacceptable, disrespectful and in very bad taste. We made this clear to the executive producers of the series who apologized immediately for this careless mistake. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms and have halted all future shipments of the DVDs, removed it from our digital platforms and will edit the scene for all future airings on any distribution domestic or international.

I can’t get as upset about this as Devin did at Badass Digest — I understand the reasoning for using the particular prop (they needed heads, and that one was lying around) but don’t quite buy the idea that there was no intent behind it. Having done prop and set dressing work myself,  I’d bet almost anything that someone on the crew thought it would be a funny thing to put that particular head in a position where it might be seen.

Benioff and Weiss should have realized that a culture as intensely (and needlessly) partisan as ours would not react well to their offhand comment on the commentary, and apologizing is a reasonable step to take. Pulling and altering all possible copies of the episode seems like an egregious move, however. A decapitated former President is tasteless, yes, but do we want to be a country where that sort of imagery is implicitly forbidden?

In the embed below, you can watch the section of DVD commentary where Benioff and Weiss talk about the scene, and reveal the point no one had previously noticed, leading to this entire kerfuffle.

Of course, the fact that the production had the head of George W. Bush lying around likely means that the prop has been used in other productions as well. Start tracking those down so we can fill the collector’s market with more recalled items! [Deadline]

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