Don't blame the photographer. That's the message from Gary Hershorn, a picture editor for Reuters, about the photo yesterday that shows President George W. Bush writing an all-too-human note during a UN meeting. Bush is shown writing: "I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible." The photo, which quickly became fodder for blogs and e-mails among friends, was taken by Rick Wilking, a contract photographer based in Denver who recently covered the flooding in New Orleans. Hershorn, Reuters' news editor for pictures for the Americas, says he's responsible for zooming in on the note and deciding to transmit the photo to Reuters clients. He says Wilking didn't know what the note said when he shot the picture. "I'm so adamant that Rick has nothing to do with this. He was just the guy who pushed the button," Hershorn says. In response to the attention the photo is getting, Reuters' spokeswoman in London released a two-sentence statement about the picture: "The photographer and editors on this story were looking for other angles in their coverage of this event, something that went beyond the stock pictures of talking heads that these kind of forums usually offer. This picture certainly does that." So how did the picture happen? According to Hershorn, Wilking was one of several photographers covering the United Nations Security Council meeting between about 11 and noon yesterday. He was part of a pool stationed on a balcony that faced Bush's back; a group of White House photographers was on a balcony facing the president. Wilking shot about 200 images and sent two memory cards to the press room at the U.N., where Hershorn was working. Hershorn looked at the images on a computer and initially decided not to send any of them. But a few hours later, he started to wonder about a note that Bush was seen writing in three of the pictures. Out of curiosity, he zoomed in to see if he could read it. Once he saw what it said, Hershorn decided the note was interesting and worth publishing. The white parts of the picture were overexposed, so a Reuters processor used Photoshop to burn down the note. This is a standard practice for news photos, Hershorn says, and the picture was not manipulated in any other way. Around 4:30 p.m., Reuters transmitted two versions of the photo, including one that was tightly cropped around the note and Bush's hand. The caption says that Bush was writing the note to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice; Hershorn says Wilking saw Bush write the note and hand the note to Rice. Hershorn says heads of state seldom attend Security Council meetings, and it's possible that Bush was simply asking his secretary of state what the proper protocol was to be excused. Online, some accused Reuters, and the media in general, of being insulting or juvenile. A letter writer to Editor & Publisher wrote, "You ought to all be ashamed of yourselves for this stupid trivia and childish focus." It's unclear how widely the picture was published; Hershorn says The (Toronto) Globe and Mail published it but he wasn't sure of any other outlets. Hershorn says he decided to transmit the picture because it was interesting. "There was no malicious intent," he says. "That's not what we do."