Whopper of the Week: Condoleezza Rice
Her subtle distinction didn't exist.
"Bob Schieffer, CBS News: We now know, according to government officials, that [CIA director George] Tenet actually went to people and got the statement saying that [Saddam Hussein had recently sought large quantities of uranium from Africa] removed from a speech the president made in October. You're going to say it's different [from the State of the Union speech ], that [the wording in the October speech] was more specific.
"National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice: Bob, it is different. It is different, and it's on a different basis.
"Schieffer: But you changed it from being more specific because you didn't...
"Rice: It's—it's ...
"Schieffer: ... you couldn't ...
"Rice: It's different and it's on a different basis. And in fact the Cincinnati speech was based on a single report and a single incident."
—Exchange on CBS News' Face the Nation, July 13.
"George Tenet had a brief telephone conversation with me during the clearance process for the October 7 Cincinnati speech. This was the one—he asked that any reference to Iraq's attempt to purchase uranium from sources from Africa[italics Chatterbox's] to be deleted from the speech. The language he was referring to when he made that call was language that said the following—and I'll just quote it—'And the regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa. …'"
—NSC deputy Steve Hadley at a White House press briefing, July 22.
Discussion. Rice was basically correct that a reference to "a single incident"—Saddam's purported attempt to purchase up to 500 metric tons of uranium oxide in Niger—was removed from the Cincinnati speech at Tenet's request. (It would have been more precise to say this was a reference to "a single number.") But Rice was wrong to say that this was the only change Tenet requested. Hadley, her deputy, revealed at the July 22 briefing that Tenet also objected to revised language in the speech referring more generally to Saddam's purported yellowcake safari. As Hadley's comment above makes clear, Tenet didn't want Bush to mention the yellowcake allegations at all.
Got a whopper? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 18, 2003: President Bush
July 10, 2003: Donald Rumsfeld
June 27, 2003: Remembering Strom
June 20, 2003: Billy Bulger
May 30, 2003: Ari Fleischer
May 23, 2003: Donald Rumsfeld
May 19, 2003: Un-Whopper: Ari Fleischer Tells Truth!
May 2, 2003: Peggy Cooper Cafritz
April 17, 2003: Eason Jordan
March 7, 2003: John Kerry
Feb. 28, 2003: Ari Fleischer
Feb. 14, 2003: Bill O'Reilly
Feb. 7, 2003: Saddam Hussein
Jan. 31, 2003: Karl Rove
Jan. 23, 2003: Bill Frist
Jan. 17, 2003: Naji Sabri
Jan. 10, 2003: Rod Paige
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.