Whopper of the Week: HHS spokesman Bill Pierce

“The president did not have a number in mind [italics Chatterbox’s] when he made a decision. If there had been two [existing stem-cell lines], he would have made the same decision. If there were 128, it still would have been his decision.”

Health and Human Services spokesman Bill Pierce, quoted by T.R. Reid in the Aug. 30 Washington Post.

“His thinking crystallized on Aug. 2, aides said, when he talked to scientists at the National Institutes of Health and was told that there were perhaps more than 60 [italics Chatterbox’s] genetically diversestemcell lines already in existence, far more than anyone had known. Mr.Bushsaid today that this was a pivotal moment in his thinking [italics Chatterbox’s].

“One of the scientists ‘told me that there were enough existing
stem cell lines to do serious research to determine whether or not embryonicstem cellresearch could live up to its potential,’ Mr. Bushsaid in an interview with ABC News. ’I thought that was a very important meeting [italics Chatterbox’s].’


“… Mr.Bush began pressing his advisers for an actual number of stem cell lines available. A federal health institutes report in June said that perhaps 30 lines existed, but Mr.Bushpressed for more information. They came back and said that perhaps more than60 existed worldwide, with about 30 in theUnited States.

“Administration officials said Mr
. Bushwas leaning toward the decision he made when he asked for thestemcell line inventory and that the number 60 sealed it for him [italics Chatterbox’s].”

 –“A Long Process That Led Bush to His Decision” byKatharine Q. Seelye and Frank Bruni in the Aug. 11 New York Times.

(To view Chatterbox’s work-in-progress, Michelin-style guide to Bush’s 64 stem-cell lines, click here.)


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:

Aug. 23, 2001: Variety Editor Peter Bart

Aug. 17, 2001: Tom Daschle

Aug 10, 2001: Robert Mueller

Aug. 3, 2001: Barbara Olson

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