Rumsfeld denying GQ report

Through an aide, the former defense secretary says he wasn't responsible for briefings that featured Biblical quotations.

Published May 20, 2009 12:00AM (EDT)

Through a spokesman, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has responded to GQ's story about his tenure in the Bush administration. In an e-mail to reporters, Keith Urbahn took issue with reporter Robert Draper's contention that Rumsfeld played a part in producing intelligence briefing cover sheets for the president that featured Biblical quotations along with images of American troops in the field:

The slides in the "World Intelligence Update" were prepared on a daily basis by military personnel serving on the Joint Staff, which reported to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, not the Secretary of Defense. The report was briefed regularly to senior military officials in the Pentagon - only occasionally to the Secretary of Defense and not to the President of the United States.

Rumsfeld was fully aware that words and actions could be harmful and counterproductive to the war effort. It's safe to say that some of these cover slides could be considered in that category. The suggestion that Rumsfeld would have composed, approved of, or personally shown the slides to President Bush is flat wrong. It did not happen.

Given that Draper used anonymous sources for this charge as well as for the rest of the innuendo in his piece, one would think he might have at least done a cursory review of the facts. He might then have avoided being taken by people with an axe to grind. When Draper goes back and checks reality against his reporting, he might also check whether GQ is in need of a new gossip columnist.

In response, Draper e-mailed Politico's Ben Smith to say he's "thoroughly confident" in the accuracy of his story and has "nothing further to add."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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