Whopper of the Week: J. Ashcroft
George W. Bush, civil libertarian.
"No one believes in our First Amendment civil liberties more than this administration."
—Attorney General John Ashcroft in a speech to the National Restaurant Association, Sept. 15
"I have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself. But assuming the press reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say, and it's unfortunate. And that's why—there was an earlier question about has the president said anything to people in his own party—they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do."
— Ari Fleischer, at that time the Bush White House spokesman, on Sept. 26, 2001. Fleischer was answering a question about comedian Bill Maher's post-9/11 quip on ABC's Politically Incorrect, "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly." ABC cancelled Politically Incorrect a few months later.
"We can live with a healthy debate as long as it is as elevated as possible and as civil as possible."
—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Sept. 8, 2003. Rumsfeld was answering a reporter's question about whether criticism of his war planning in Iraq compromised the war on terrorism.
Discussion. GiveAshcroft some credit for inserting the qualifier, "First Amendment." If he'd made the blanket statement, "No one believes in our civil liberties more than this administration," Chatterbox would have had to label it "Whopper of the Decade."
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.
Sept. 5, 2003: Christy Whitman
Aug. 29, 2003: Donald Rumsfeld
Aug. 22, 2003: Arianna Huffington
Aug. 8, 2003: Howard Dean
July 25, 2003: Condoleezza Rice
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.