Whopper of the Week: Barbara Olson
"I wish to apologize to President Clinton and his family for my insensitivity. My choice of words was very unfortunate. I did not intend to demean Virginia Kelley or her memory [italics Chatterbox's] and I regret having done so."
--Republican activist Barbara Olson, as quoted by Lloyd Grove in his July 31 "Reliable Sources" column in the Washington Post.
"Look at Bill Clinton's mother, as opposed to George W.'s mother. Is your mother a barfly who gets used by men? [Italics Chatterbox's.] Or is your mother a strong woman who demanded respect for her ideas and always received it?"
Commentary: This is a superb example of the Insincere Apology. Barbara Olson said something deeply unkind (though fairly accurate) about Bill Clinton's late mother in order to make a specious comparison between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The context in which she did so was an outburst of naked class snobbery. Olson had no option but retreat. But she couldn't say, "I'm sorry that I said something gratuitously mean about Bill Clinton's mother." That would acknowledge previous malign intent and might damage the reputation of her husband, Solicitor General Ted Olson. Instead, Olson took the common dodge of stating that her intent was misconstrued. She meant well; clumsily, she just chose words that failed to convey her true feelings. But of course, it simply isn't possible that Olson meant well, since there is no nice way to say that someone is "a barfly who gets used by men."
Got a whopper? Send it to email@example.com. To be considered, an entry must be an unambiguously false statement paired with an unambiguous refutation, and both must be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online.
July 27, 2001: Jeffrey Archer
July 20, 2001: George W. Bush
July 13, 2001: George W. Bush
July 6, 2001: Sumner Redstone
June 29, 2001: David Brock
June 22, 2001: Edmund Morris
June 15, 2001: George W. Bush
June 8, 2001: Nepali Prince Regent (subsequently, King) Gyanendra
June 1, 2001: Mary McGrory
May 25, 2001: Ari Fleischer
May 18, 2001: York, Pa., Mayor Charles Robertson
May 11, 2001: Ted Olson
May 4, 2001: Rear Admiral Craig Quigley
April 27, 2001: Ben Affleck
April 20, 2001: South Carolina state legislator Chip Limehouse
April 13, 2001: Gray Davis
April 6, 2001: Sumner Redstone
March 30, 2001: Spencer Abraham
March 23, 2001: George W. Bush, Rep. Jennifer Dunn, and/or the Treasury Department
March 16, 2001: George W. Bush
March 9, 2001: Russ Freyman, spokesman, National Association of Manufacturers
March 2, 2001: Paul O'Neill
Feb. 23, 2001: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Feb. 16, 2001: Oscar spokesman John Pavlik
Feb. 9, 2001: Lynne Cheney
Feb. 2, 2001: Bobby Thomson
Jan. 26, 2001: Denise Rich