Whopper of the Week: State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker 


Q: “[Y]ou are disapproving of what Israel is reported to have done [i.e., assassinated Abdel Hamad, an Islamic militant believed to be responsible for a June 1 attack on a Tel Aviv discotheque that killed twenty-two people], because it’s targeting?

State Department Deputy Spokesman PhilipReeker:I have seen reports of a targeted killing. … And our position on targeted killings is well known.

Q:Could you say what it is? Because I would have to assume–

Reeker: “It is the same position that we have said over and over again. And that is that we oppose a policy of targeted killings.”


–State Department daily briefing, Oct. 15.

Q: “Secretary Rumsfeld, do you believe that the prohibition against assassination that’s part of United States code now includes leadership during a military engagement?


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “There’s no question in my mind but–or I would not be standing up here saying what I have been saying, but that it is certainly within the president’s power to direct that in our self-defense, we take this battle to the terrorists, and that means to the leadership and command-and-control capabilities of terrorist networks.”

Pentagon daily briefing, Oct. 15.

Q: “Do you want bin Laden dead?

President George W. Bush: “I want justice.  There’s an old poster out west, as I recall, that said, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’ “

Exchange with reporter after Sept. 17 speech to Pentagon employees.


Second-degree whopper: When a reporter at the Sept. 15 State Department briefing asked Reeker how the United States could censure Israel’s policy of assassination at the same time that it was trying to assassinate Osama Bin Laden, Reeker replied:

 “I can’t really draw a parallel between the two.”

(Thanks to reader John McGeady.)

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.