Did Bush advocate bombing Al-Jazeera?

The White House says the charge is so "outlandish" that it won't respond.

Published November 22, 2005 5:39PM (EST)

We're all familiar with the ways in which the Bush administration has tried to manipulate the press back home, but here's something we hadn't heard before. As the Associated Press is reporting, British authorities have charged a civil servant with violating Britain's Official Secrets Act by leaking a transcript of a conversation between George W. Bush and Tony Blair. The subject of the conversation: Bush's desire to bomb the offices of Al-Jazeera in Qatar.

The AP report relies on a story from London's Daily Mirror. The Daily Mirror, in turn, quotes one unidentified government source as saying that Bush was joking when he talked about bombing the television network during an April 2004 meeting with Blair at the White House. But the paper also quotes another unidentified official who says that "Bush was deadly serious" about bombing Al-Jazeera, "as was Blair" in trying to dissuade him.

What does the White House say about the charge? "We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response," a White House official tells the BBC. Which is like a denial, only different.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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