Whopper of the Week: Donald Rumsfeld.

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July 10 2003 6:49 PM

Whopper of the Week: Donald Rumsfeld

Oh, that IAEA finding …

"Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, when did you know that the reports about [Iraq seeking] uranium coming out of Africa were bogus?

"A:Oh, within recent days, since the information started becoming available."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, answering a question posed by Sen. Mark Pryor, D.-Ark., at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services committee, July 10.

"The [International Atomic Energy Agency] has made progress in its investigation into reports that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger in recent years. … The IAEA was … able to review correspondence coming from various bodies of the Government of Niger, and to compare the form, format, contents and signatures of that correspondence with those of the alleged procurement-related documentation.

"Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents—which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger—are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded."

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in a March 7 statement to the United Nations Security Council. ElBaradei's statement was reported March 8 on the front page of the Washington Post, Rumsfeld's hometown newspaper, and was also widely reported in other TV and print outlets around the world.

(Thanks to Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo.)

Discussion. The only thing that's happened "within recent days" is that the White House finally conceded what had long been known to anyone paying the slightest attention—i.e., that President Bush shouldn't have stated the Niger connection as fact in this year's State of the Union address. This admission was prompted by a July 6 New York Times op-ed by Joseph C. Wilson 4th, a former career foreign-service officer, who—nearly a year before Bush's speech—was sent by the CIA (at Vice President Dick Cheney's behest) to check out the Niger-Iraq allegation. In the Times piece, Wilson wrote that he had found, and reported, that the story had no apparent factual basis—and that the embassy had repeatedly stated the same conclusion in cables to Washington.

Got a whopper? Send it to chatterbox@slate.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.

Whopper Archive:
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