Whopper: Joseph Wilson

Say goodbye to Plamegate.


Any goodwill that has come my way, and there has been an overwhelming support from Republicans who are highly indignant about this as well as some Democrats, but any goodwill accrues to my wife. Not to me. And my wife has made it very clear that—she has authorized me to say this—she would rather chop off her right arm than say anything to the press and she will not allow herself to be photographed [italics Chatterbox’s]. So while I believe she would make a wonderful politician, it is tough to run a campaign if you’re not talking to the press and you’re not being photographed[italics Chatterbox’s].

Joseph Wilson on Meet the Press, October 5.

Former CIA officer Valerie Wilson (nee Plame) made her first public appearance among journalists yesterday as she watched her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, receive the first Ron Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling.

Wilson, 53, is the retired diplomat who was sent by the CIA to Niger last year to investigate claims that Iraq had tried to buy ‘yellowcake’ uranium there for possible use in nuclear weapons. In July he accused the Bush administration of using the bogus allegations to help make a case for war. President Bush later backed away from the claim.

After Wilson went public, Valerie Wilson’s name and occupation were leaked to journalists in what her husband calls retaliation for his criticism of the administration. The Justice Department is investigating the leak. …Wilson was most emotional when addressing his wife’s exposure. ‘I’m sorry for that,’ he said, looking at her and fighting back tears. ‘If I could give you back your anonymity … I would do it in a minute.’She sat quietly, wiping away a tear, as her husband added, ‘Frankly, frog-marching is too good for those who decided that their political agenda was more important than either American national security or your life.’

Valerie Wilson would not talk to reporters and attended the event only after receiving assurance that she would not be photographed[italics Chatterbox’s].Reilly Capps, “Paying Homage to Truth and Its Consequences,” in the Oct. 16 Washington Post.Even before the president’s budget director parked his motorcycle outside the front door, there was an only-in-Washington feel to the Sunday night sendoff of NBC News White House correspondent Campbell Brown, on her way to New York and Today show stardom.

At the buffet at Brown’s home in Adams Morgan, former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV waxed indignant about the perfidies of the senior administration officials who he believes leaked the identity of his CIA-agent wife, Valerie Plame Wilson. … The buzz, though, focused on a shy and attractive blonde who sat nibbling finger sandwiches and discreetly introduced herself only as ‘Valerie.’ Washington Post “Names and Faces” column, Oct. 22.Plame … mingled unobtrusively last month at a party at the home of the Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn.Howard Kurtz, “CIA Agent Valerie Plame Goes Undercover in Vanity Fair,” in the Dec. 3 Washington Post.

Vanity Fair, January 2004 (on newsstands today). The photograph, by Jonas Karlsson, was taken Nov. 8 and “styled by” Ann Caruso. Hair, makeup, and grooming by Terri Grauel for T.H.E. Artist Agency.“The pictures should not be able to identify her, or are not supposed to,” Wilson said yesterday. “She’s still not going to answer any questions[italics Chatterbox’s] and there will not be any pictures that compromise her.” The reason, said Wilson, is that “she’s still employed” by the CIA “and has obligations to her employer.” Howard Kurtz, “CIA Agent Valerie Plame Goes Undercover in Vanity Fair,” in the Dec. 3 Washington Post.Plame talked to Vanity Fair writer Vicky Ward on a not-for-attribution basis. …Ibid.

Comment. Chatterbox spares Plame Whopper status, possibly on grounds of misplaced gallantry. But Plame’s extended striptease, enthusiastically barked by her husband, now has Chatterbox wondering how much of Wilson’s story to believe. (It also has Chatterbox wondering when the couple will start renting themselves out for birthday parties.) Regardless of the merits, this photograph will surely give the Bush Justice Department whatever slim justification it seeks in dropping its Plamegate investigation.

[Update, Jan. 5, 2004: The striptease continues. Perhaps sensing inconsistency in his position on whether his wife may or may not be photographed, Wilson changed his story yet again. In a Dec. 26 news story, Wilson was quoted telling the Washington Post that the Vanity Fair shoot did not compromise national security because Plame’s cover had already been “completely blown”:

“My only regret about the Vanity Fair photo is that after all my wife and I have been through on this, that she had to be clothed as generic blonde in order to deal with the genuine concern that some wacko on the street might easily identify her,” he said. “It was just in the interest of personal security.”

It makes perfect sense that Wilson would see no point in keeping Plame’s physical appearance a secret after the White House leaker blew her cover. But that commonsensical take on the matter contradicts Wilson’s Dec. 3 insistence to Howard Kurtz that Plame had to stay in the shadows because she “has obligations to her employer.” Now Wilson was saying that Plame was only kinda staying in the shadows out of concern for her “personal security.” Whatever.

Chatterbox’s prediction that, regardless of the merits, the Justice Department would use the Vanity Fair picture as a pretext for dropping its Plamegate investigation turned out to be wrong. A (sort-of) special counsel has been named to investigate. But Chatterbox argues here that Attorney General John Ashcroft may be playing Br’er Rabbit, recusing himself from the probe and handing it over to a special counsel as a way to bury it.]

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. 31, 2003: G.W. Bush
Oct. 17, 2003: Grady Little
Sept. 16, 2003: John Ashcroft
Sept. 5, 2003: Christy Whitman
Aug. 29, 2003: Donald Rumsfeld
Aug. 22, 2003: Arianna Huffington
Aug. 8, 2003: Howard Dean
July 25, 2003: Condoleezza Rice
July 18, 2003: President Bush
July 10, 2003: Donald Rumsfeld
June 27, 2003: Remembering Strom
June 20, 2003: Billy Bulger
May 30, 2003: Ari Fleischer
May 23, 2003: Donald Rumsfeld
May 19, 2003: Un-Whopper: Ari Fleischer Tells Truth!
May 2, 2003: Peggy Cooper Cafritz
April 17, 2003: Eason Jordan
March 7, 2003: John Kerry
Feb. 28, 2003: Ari Fleischer
Feb. 14, 2003: Bill O’Reilly
Feb. 7, 2003: Saddam Hussein
Jan. 31, 2003: Karl Rove
Jan. 23, 2003: Bill Frist
Jan. 17, 2003: Naji Sabri
Jan. 10, 2003: Rod Paige

(Click here  to access the Whopper Archive for 2002 and here  to access the Whopper Archive for 2001.)