White House Briefing, May 16
16 May 2005
Newsweek report on alleged Quran desecration
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan briefed the press May 16.
Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(West Point, Virginia)
May 16, 2005
PRESS GAGGLE WITH SCOTT MCCLELLAN
Virginia BioDiesel Refinery
West Point, Virginia
11:23 A.M. EDT
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) -- what's the White House --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I find it puzzling that Newsweek now acknowledges that the facts were wrong, and they refuse to offer a retraction. There is a certain journalistic standard that should be met, and in this case it was not met. The report was not accurate, and it was based on a single anonymous source who cannot personally substantiate the report, so the -- so they cannot verify the accuracy of the report.
Q: Scott, is the White House demanding a retraction --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying --
Q: -- or are you satisfied with the statement Newsweek has made --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying that I find it puzzling that the reporter got it wrong, yet said they're not retracting the story.
Q: -- a retraction, or --
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, if you look at the comments from the editor in this morning's papers he said, we're not retracting the story, we don't know the facts. I don't think that's a standard that we're talking about here.
Q: So, Scott, you find it puzzling, but you're not asking for a retraction?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct.
Q: Why would you not ask --
MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, it's -- this report has had serious consequences. It has caused damage to the image of the United States abroad. It has -- people have lost their lives. It has certainly caused damage to the credibility of the media, as well, and Newsweek, itself.
Q: Can you 100 percent say for sure that it is wrong, that there were no incidents of American interrogators putting Korans in the toilets?
MR. McCLELLAN: I know of no such incidents. And the Department of Defense said last week that they could find no credible evidence of it either. They have looked into it. And obviously, we would take something like that very, seriously, because we've made it clear that that is simply not -- that does not represent the values of the United States of America. The United States of America values the religious freedom of all. And, in fact, at Guantanamo, we have made sure that the detainees are able to worship freely, and that they are provided copies of the holy Koran.
Q: Has the President expressed his personal views on this?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm going to stop in a minute, the President is starting to speak. I think I'm expressing our views.
END 11:25 A.M. EDT
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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