Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha unveiled at 9.3 foot-tall statue of George W. Bush in the itsy-bitsy town of Fushe Kruje on Wednesday. Marking the former president's 65th birthday, the ceremony took place in the town square that now bears George W. Bush's name. It's also the same spot that Bush visited in June 2007 and may or may not have had his watch stolen as ecstatic locals reached to shake the president's hand and pat his head. Bush had been the first U.S. president to visit Albania, an overwhelmingly pro-American country.
"The United States is still remembered fondly in Albania for leading NATO's 1999 military campaign to halt Serbia's ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo," says Foreign Policy's Robert Zeliger. "Albania joined NATO in 2009, with Washington's backing."
If you watch the above video closely--no pun intended--you can see around minute one that the wristwatch on Bush's left arm mysteriously disappears. YouTube conspiracy theorists quickly noticed this and a narrative emerged that Albanians had stolen Bush's famously humble star-spangled Timex had been lifted right off of his left wrist. ABC News and Reuters debunked the story soon thereafter, citing a White House spokeswoman who said that president had swiftly removed the watch himself and handed it back to a Secret Service agent.
The debate over whether or not the watch was stolen still persists in the original video's comments section, but it's of little consequence. If indeed the watch was lost, the president could surely afford the $50 to replace it. And the residents of Fushe Kruje love him more than ever.
"He left his mother in the United States but he found a mother here," said Thomaidha Kaziu, who told Reuters that the president remarked about her resemblance to his mother in 2007. "I will not die without meeting him again."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.