Early life and education
Bumiller was born in Aalborg, Denmark, to a Danish mother and American father. The family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, when she was three years old. Bumiller attended Walnut Hills High School, where she reported for the school newspaper, the Walnut Hills Chatterbox. She graduated in 1974.
Bumiller then attended Northwestern University as an undergraduate in the Medill School of Journalism, graduating in 1977. She wrote for the Daily Northwestern. She received a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1979.
Bumiller's began her career at the Miami Herald. Her first journalism job in Washington was as a party reporter for the Washington Post Style section, where she covered Washington society. In this role, Bumiller followed First Lady Nancy Reagan to the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer. In fall 1979, Bumiller met Steven R. Weisman, then the White House correspondent for the New York Times, and the two married in 1983.
In 1985, after Weisman took up the post of New Delhi bureau chief for the Times, Bumiller moved to India and continued to write for the Style section of the Post. She also wrote her first book, May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons (Ballantine, 1991), described as "examination of daily life for women in India." In 1989, when Weisman became Tokyo bureau chief for the Times, the couple moved again to Japan, where Bumiller continued to work for the Post and also began work on a second book, The Secrets of Mariko (Vintage, 1996). Bumiller also gave birth to the couple's first child in Japan, a daughter.
In 1992, Weisman and Bumiller moved to New York, where Weisman took up the post as deputy foreign editor for the Times; while in New York, Bumiller gave birth to her second child, a son. In 1995, Bumiller joined her husband at the Times, as a general assignment metro reporter.
From fall 1999 until 2001, Bumiller became New York City Hall bureau chief, where she covered the mayoral administration of Rudolph Giuliani and Giuliani's abortive 2000 bid for the U.S. Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton. During this time, Bumiller was a contributor to the "Public Lives" column, which profiled city officials.
In 2001, Bumiller was promoted to White House correspondent for the Times, serving in that role from September 10, 2001 to 2006. Weisman followed her to become the paper's senior diplomatic correspondent for the Times.
Bumiller was criticized by Glenn Greenwald, Eric Boehlert, Lisa Finnegan, and others for failing to question George W. Bush on the run-up to the Iraq War. Reflecting on a March 6, 2003 presidential press conference before the invasion of Iraq, Bumiller said: "I think we were very deferential because ... it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you're standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time." At a panel discussion sponsored by Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism in November 2004, Bumiller stated: "You can't just say the president is lying...You can in an editorial, but I'm sorry, you can't in a news column...You can say Mr. Bush's statement was not factually accurate. You can't say the president is lying—that's a judgment call."
Beginning in June 2006, Bumiller took a one-year leave of absence from the Times to write a biography of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. During this period, Bumiller was also a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (September 2006—February 2007) and a Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund. Bumiller's book, Condoleezza Rice: An American Life, was published by Random House in December 2007. The book, which was based on ten interviews with Rice as well as interviews from 150 others, portrays Rice catering to Bush's desire to invade Iraq, and it describes her being taken completely by surprise when Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. Jacob Heilbrunn, reviewing the book in the New York Times, wrote that Bumiller "brings a keen eye to Rice, probing not only her tenure as a policy maker and her close ties to George W. Bush, but also her personal and professional past.
In 2008, Bumiller covered the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain for the Times. During the campaign, McCain at times clashed with Bumiller and other Times writers. From 2008 to early 2013, Bumiller served as Pentagon correspondent; in this role, she traveled with the Secretary of Defense and was embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In May 2009, the Times published a controversial front-page article by Bumiller citing an unreleased Pentagon report for the proposition that one in seven detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp "returned to terrorism or militant activity"; this figure was criticized as inflated in a Times op-ed by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, and Times public editor Clark Hoyt wrote that editors should have taken a more skeptical approach.
Subsequently, Bumiller was named Washington editor. In September 2015, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet announced that Bumiller would replace Carolyn Ryan as the Washington bureau chief.
- Elisabeth Bumiller, May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons: A Journey Among the Women of India ("About the Author").
- Rebecca Zeifman, On the Bush Beat: New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller Has Become Adept at covering the tight-lipped White House, Northwestern (summer 2005).
- Walnut Hills High School - Alumni Hall of Fame Dinner, Saturday, April 30, 2011.
- Biography of Elisabeth Bumiller, League of Women Voters of Scarsdale May 2015 Annual Luncheon.
- Mary Cardaras, Fear, Power, and Politics: The Recipe for War in Iraq after 9/11 (Lexington: 2013), p. 187.
- Glenn Greenwald, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency (Crown/Archetype, 2007).
- Lisa Finnegan, No Questions Asked: News Coverage Since 9/11 (Greenwood, 2006), p. 20.
- Ben Fritz, Bryan Keefer & Brendan Nyhan, All the President's Spin: George W. Bush, the Media, and the Truth (Touchstone: 2004), p. 48.
- "You Can't Just Say the President is Lying, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, Extra!, January/February 2005 (transcript of panel discussion in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism (November 4, 2004).
- Bumiller of 'NYT' Writing Condi Bio, Will Take Leave, Editor & Publisher (March 1, 2005).
- Matt Haber, Off the Record, Observer (March 6, 2006).
- Former Public Policy Scholar: Elisabeth Bumiller, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
- Dundon, Bumiller join GMF as Transatlantic Fellows, German Marshall Fund of the United States (June 3, 2010).
- Jacob Heilbrunn, Consent and Advise, New York Times (January 20, 2008).
- Maureen Dowd, Jump on the Peace Train, New York Times (November 28, 2007).
- Transcript: John McCain's exchange with Elisabeth Bumiller, Wall Street Journal (March 7, 2008).
- Dan Amira, McCain's War Against the Gray Lady: A Timeline, New York (September 23, 2008).
- Peter Bergen & Katherine Tiedeman, Inflating the Guantánamo Threat, New York Times (May 28, 2009).
- Clark Hoyt, What Happened to Skepticism?, New York Times (June 6, 2009).
- Dylan Byers, N.Y. Times D.C. shakeup: Carolyn Ryan out, Elisabeth Bumiller in as bureau chief: Ryan to focus on 2016 campaign, Politico (September 8, 2015).