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White house alters transcripts of press briefing { November 9 2005 }

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White House Stands by 'Not Accurate' Quote in Dispute
By Joe Strupp

Published: November 09, 2005 11:30 PM ET

NEW YORK Presidential Press Secretary Scott McClellan's short answer to a question at his daily press briefing last week has prompted a dispute between the White House press office and two news organizations that offer transcripts of the events.

A spokeswoman for McClellan's office told E&P late Wednesday that the White House is standing by its version of what he said.

At the Oct. 31 briefing, David Gregory of NBC News stated the following question to McClellan about White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby: "Whether there's a question of legality, we know for a fact that there was involvement. We know that Karl Rove, based on what he and his lawyer have said, did have a conversation about somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations."

The official White House transcript states that McClellan's response was "I donít think that's accurate."

But two outside news agencies, Congressional Quarterly and Federal News Service -- which provide transcripts for a fee -- both reported the response as "that's accurate."

The differing accounts have sparked a flurry of buzz on numerous blogs, such as ThinkProgress, Wonkette, Eschaton and DailyKos. They say a video of the press briefing reveals McClellan saying "that's accurate."

White House officials contacted the news outlets and ask for a change to their versions of the transcript.

"They asked me to take a look at it about a week ago," said Kirk Hanneman, news director of Federal News Service, which provides transcripts of different government events. "We took a look at it because they did have a problem with it and in the end, we had what we originally had and we are sticking by that because we believe it is correct."

Hanneman says his company transcribes such events via audio feeds, with several staffers involved in the process. He said employees reviewed audio and video recordings of the briefing following the White House request, but found nothing to change. "I think he may have meant to say something else," he added about McClellan.

At Congressional Quarterly, which provides such transcripts to subscribers via the Web, Editor David Rapp had a similar experience with the White House. "They called last week and asked us to make a correction and we investigated and decided to stand by our version," he told E&P. "Their comment is a little bit incongruous, it doesn't jive with what we have."

White House press office spokeswoman Dana Perino confirmed that her office had requested a review of the transcripts, noting, "it was simply to point out that the official transcript by the White House stenographer had it as it was released and that is all it was," she said, saying the White House transcript was never altered.

When asked about the fact that the White House version contradicts video accounts of the briefing, Perino added, "the White House stenographer was in the room and I was in the room" and they heard McClellan say "I don't think that's accurate'."

Joe Strupp ( is a senior editor.

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