TAMPA — To Mayor Pam Iorio, it was a courteous little bow.
But to the conservative blogosphere, the gesture President Barack Obama made toward the mayor last week was another sign of presidential weakness.
The fuss is over a photo of Obama appearing to bow as Iorio greeted him at MacDill Air Force Base on his way to a town hall meeting at the University of Tampa.
"I don't know why such a big deal is being made of it," Iorio said Tuesday. "When people are introduced to me, they might slightly dip and say, 'Pleasure to meet you.' "
The moment was captured in photos and videos documenting Obama's arrival, but it's one particular photo by St. Petersburg Times photographer Edmund Fountain that caused a stir in conservative circles and echoed across the Internet.
The blog Ace of Spades weighed in first: "I guess I don't mind so much when he's bowing to an American. I'm not happy about it, but bowing to foreign heads of state pegs my OH HE DID NOT meter while this just rises to 'what a buffoon'-levels of presidential misbehavior.''
Redstate.com added its two cents: "The mayor of Tampa isn't a Third World potentate, totalitarian dictator, or terrorist leader so I can't understand why Obama would be in full-bow mode."
Googling "Obama Iorio bow" Tuesday produced 38,600 hits. The photo made the front page of the DrudgeReport.com, and was the most e-mailed photo on Yahoo for a while.
It was a topic of discussion during Monday morning's Fox and Friends show, and again on Tuesday when Iorio appeared as a guest.
Hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade grilled Iorio about the gesture, which she explained as simply courteous. "It's hard for me to believe this is such a major issue," Iorio told the hosts before trying to steer the conversation to high-speed rail. The hosts showed little interest in that.
"Well, it's just such a striking photograph," Doocy said, noting that Obama was criticized before for bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Japanese Emperor Akihito. Conservatives called the greetings in those overseas encounters inappropriate.
Conservative talk radio host Todd Schnitt, also known as MJ on WFLZ-FM's MJ in the Morning, brought up the bow last week — both on the MJ show and his afternoon talk show, the Schnitt Show, which airs on WFLA-AM 970.
Schnitt criticized Obama on the air again Tuesday morning, also recalling the president's bows to the Saudi and Japanese leaders.
"The worldwide Obama bowing tour continues," Schnitt told the Times. "You shake the mayor's hand, you can give the mayor a hug, you can even give the mayor a kiss on the cheek if you want. But bowing is considered a sign of weakness."
Schnitt said he was fielding calls all morning from listeners who agreed with his analysis. "It's subservient. It's submissive," Schnitt said.
Iorio said the much taller Obama (he's 6 feet 2) leaned in to listen as she welcomed him to Tampa on the noisy tarmac and thanked him for high-speed rail funds. He acknowledged her with a slight bow, she said.
"The president is a very gracious person, and that is really what it's all about. The picture, for some reason, has gone across the Internet somehow in a disparaging way to the president, which I do not understand," Iorio told the Times.
After the Saudi bow, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs had this to say at a media briefing: "I can only imagine it is of great cause and concern for many people struggling with the economy."
No word yet on the White House's reaction to this bow, but as far as Iorio's concerned, "I don't think there's anything more to it."