Whopper of the Week: Gale Norton 


“Dear Senator Murkowski: “Thank you for your letter of May 15, 2001. I am pleased to respond to the questions that you have asked about the resources and wildlife in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). As the information provided below demonstrates, I believe that we can ensure that any exploration and development of the oil and natural gas reserves in the 1002 Area of ANWR can be conducted in a manner that is protective of the environment and minimizes impacts on wildlife in the area.
  1. What is the Porcupine Caribou Herd’s historic calving range?
“The historic calving range of the Porcubine caribou herd (PCH) covers an area of approximately 8.9 million acres. … Figure 2 shows the extent of calving during 1983-2000. Concentrated calving occurred primarily outside of the 1002 Area in 11 of the last 18 years.” [Italics Chatterbox’s.]— Letter from Interior Secretary Gale Norton to Sen. Frank Murkowski, received July 11

“Dear Mr. Chairman:“Thank you for your letter of May 15, 2001. The questions in your letter are presented in bold below, followed by our responding information.
  1. What is the Porcupine Caribou Herd’s historic calving range?
“The historic calving range of the PCH extends across the arctic coastal plain, foothills, and northern mountain valleys. … Figure 2 shows the extent of calving during 1983-2000. … According to historic records, calving concentrations have not occurred on a relatively small portion (Canning delta and northern coastal margin) of the ArcticRefuge “1002 Area. [Italics Chatterbox’s.] Portions of the eastern segment of the Central Arctic Herd use the Canning River delta area for calving. There have been PCH calving concentrations within the 1002 Area for 27 of 30 years[Italics Chatterbox’s.]Earlier draft of the Norton letter to Murkowski, prepared by Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service.

Norton … added data that were erroneous, stating that caribou calving has been concentrated outside the proposed drilling area in 11 of the last 18 years, when the opposite is true.Michael Grunwald, “Department Differences Show Over ANWR Drilling,” in the Oct. 19 Washington Post. “Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said yesterday ‘we did make a mistake’ in mischaracterizing patterns of rare caribou calving in reviewing how oil drilling could affect Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”The Washington Post “Nation in Brief” column, Oct. 20.

(Thanks to Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility.)

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:
Oct. 19, 2001: State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker
Oct. 12, 2001: Clarence Thomas
Oct. 5, 2001: Abdul Salam Zaeef
Sept. 27, 2001: Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, and Dick Cheney
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