Last Friday, the Erik Wemple Blog highlighted the suspicions of Slate commentator Jacob Weisberg that Ron Suskind had made up the famous ”reality-based” quote from an official of the George W. Bush administration.
Meanwhile, there’s a Bush administration official out there alleging Suskind fabricated another quote.
Keith Hennessey was a Bush administration economic adviser who sat in on a meeting that Suskind described in his 2002 book, The Price of Loyalty. Suskind gives a blow-by-blow account of that session, and Hennessey is taking issue with his appearance therein:
Mr. Suskind gets some of the details right — the meeting was in the Roosevelt Room, he has the correct list of attendees, and he captures some of the substance and flavor of the debate.
He then includes a paragraph-long quote he claims I said to the President. In that quote (in quotation marks), Mr. Suskind wrote that I argued in favor of doing the tax cut, and that I was therefore rebutting Secretary O’Neill and two other Cabinet-level advisors.
I did favor the tax cut, but the quote Mr. Suskind attributes to me is fabricated. I didn’t say anything even remotely similar to what he quoted me as saying, and I didn’t make a recommendation in that meeting. I know this with certainty because this was the first big Presidential meeting in which I had a significant speaking role, and I was, to say the least, nervous.
Suskind’s response: “As noted at the time of publication, that long meeting, which runs 11 pages in the book, was based primarily on a transcript I obtained of the entire meeting from one of the participants. No quotes from that meeting have been challenged in the past ten years.”
So Hennessey alleges fabrication; Suskind says transcript, bucko. Irreconcilable positions? Not at all. Suskind could well have gotten a pretty darned accurate transcript from a participant. That transcriber could well have messed up the transcription in this one instance. Transcript errors have occurred before. If it did in this instance, then that’s unfortunate for all parties. But it’s far, far removed from the gravity of a fabrication. People need to be careful with that term.