Whopper of the Week: Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, and Dick Cheney

“They also made it clear they wanted to get us up quickly, and they wanted to get us to a high altitude, because there had been a specific threat made to Air Force One. … A declaration that Air Force One was a target, and said in a way that they called it credible. … So they wanted to get us up quickly. They also wanted to get us up with fighter air cover.”

White House senior counselor Karl Rove, quoted by Nicholas Lemann in the Sept. 28 New Yorker.


“We have specific and credible information that the White House and Air Force One were also intended targets of these attacks.”

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, Sept. 12 briefing.

“Q: [It was] yesterday reported that some of the people in the Pentagon were a little bit skeptical about your comments yesterday that the White House and Air Force One were attacked–were targets of attack, given that the plane had come from the south. What do you–

“Fleischer: Who are these people?

“Q: Well, I don’t know. They weren’t my sources, so–

“(Cross talk.)

“Fleischer: No. There’s–I wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true.

“Q: Can you confirm the substance of that threat that was telephoned in … that Air Force One is next and using code words?

“Fleischer: Yes, I can. That’s correct.”

White House “press gaggle” with Ari Fleischer, Sept. 13.


“Vice President Cheney: The president was on Air Force One. We received a threat to Air Force One–came through the Secret Service …

“Tim Russert: A credible threat to Air Force One. You’re convinced of that.

“Vice President Cheney: I’m convinced of that. Now, you know, it may have been phoned in by a crank, but in the midst of what was going on, there was no way to know that. I think it was a credible threat, enough for the Secret Service to bring it to me.”

NBC’s Meet the Press, Sept. 16.

“Finally, there is this postscript to the puzzle of how someone presumed to be a terrorist was able to call in a threat against Air Force One using a secret code name for the president’s plane. Well, as it turns out, that simply never happened. Sources say White House staffers apparently misunderstood comments made by their security detail.”


CBS News reporter Jim Stewart on the Sept. 25 CBS Evening News.

“[Administration officials have] been unsuccessful in trying to track down whether there was such a call, though officials still maintain they were told of a telephone threat Sept. 11 and kept Bush away from Washington for hours because of it.”


Sept. 25 AP report, quoted in the Sept. 27 Washington Post.

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:

Sept. 20, 2001: Larry C. Johnson

Sept. 13, 2001: Yasser Arafat

Sept. 7, 2001: Tommy Thompson

Aug. 30, 2001: HHS spokesman Bill Pierce

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