Whopper of the Week: Ted Olson

“Only as a member of the board of directors of the American Spectator. It has been alleged that I was somehow involved in that so-called project; I was not involved in the project, in its origin or its management.”

Solicitor-general nominee Theodore Olson, testifying before the Senate Judiciary committee, in response to the question, “Were you involved with the so-calledArkansasProject at any time?”TheArkansasProject wasthe American Spectator’s $2 million scandal investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton funded by conservative philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife. Olson’s remarks were quoted on May 3 by Jake Tapper in Salon, and on May 10 by Thomas B. Edsall in the Washington Post. Tapper was following up on earlier Salon stories by Joe Conason and Alicia Montgomery.


“[David]Brock, who was one of the Spectator’s leading investigative reporters in the Arkansas Project but who left the magazine after a series of disagreements, said Olson attended a number of dinner meetings at the home of R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., president and chairman of the Spectator, which were explicitly ‘brainstorming’ sessions about the Arkansas Project.


“‘There were several dinners at Bob Tyrrell’s house, editorial planning sessions, on articles on the Clintons in Arkansas,’ Brock said. ‘Ted [Olson] was sometimes there, occasionally Barbara Olson [Ted Olson’s wife] as well.’

“Olson, according to Brock, was an active participant in discussions of possible stories, of methods to investigate scandal allegations and of ways to cultivate sources who would be familiar with theClintons’ political and financial dealings.”


–Edsall’s May 10 Post story

“[Spectator Editor in Chief R. Emmett] Tyrrell and Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, then a top editor, said that project story ideas, legal issues involving the stories produced by the project and other directly related matters were discussed with Olson by staff members, and at dinner parties of Spectator staffers and board members.

“Pleszczynski said Brock, who was the leading investigator of the Clintons’ activities in Arkansas, ‘talked to Ted off and on about issues’ involved in his stories.”

–Thomas B. Edsall and Robert G. Kaiser, “Panel Postpones Vote on Olson Nomination,” in May 11 Washington Post

“A 1995 audit of the Arkansas Project’s books showed that the American Spectator nonprofit funding the Arkansas Project paid more than $14,000 to Olson’s law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, from March until August of 1994.”


Tapper’s May 3 Salon story

“Records of the Spectator provided by a source who performed work for the magazine included a multipage ‘Expense Analysis–ArkansasProject.’ Among more than 100 expenses listed for June 1995, the only month covered in the documents, are a series of payments totaling about $8,000 to Olson’s law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.”

Edsall’s May 10 Post story

“Criminal Laws Implicated by theClintonScandals: A Partial List”

–Headline on a February 1994 American Spectator article co-authored pseudonymously  by Olson.

Note: The Spectator’s Pleszczynski disputes Chatterbox’s characterization of Olson’s remarks as a Whopper. Click here to read his response.


Got a whopper? Send it to 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:

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