On Wednesday, Vice President Dick Cheney gave a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in which he claimed that China, in cooperation with the Cuban government, is drilling for oil “60 miles off the coast of Florida.” “Even the communists have figured out” that drilling for oil is the solution to the energy crisis, Cheney argued.
It’s a talking point favored by the right wing. Cheney was quoting conservative columnist Geroge Will, who wrote on June 6 that China is drilling “60 miles off Florida,” “closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are.” The same day Cheney spoke, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) wrote that Castro was allowing drilling “45 miles from the Florida keys.” Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) have also raised the specter of Chinese drilling just off U.S. shores.
The problem, of course, is that the claim is completely false. After his claim was thoroughly debunked in the press, Cheney acknowledged that he had, in fact, lied in his speech, though his statement today offered no apology and issued only a half-hearted backtrack of his original claim:
It is our understanding that, although Cuba has leased out exploration blocks 60 miles off the coast of southern Florida, which is closer than American firms are allowed to operate in that area, no Chinese firm is drilling there.
Cheney’s comments were so egregiously false that a member of his own party took to the Senate floor to correct the record. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) decried claims of “some fabricated Cuba/China connection,” saying they have “no merit.”
Peddling stories of false connections that have no merit is hardly a new practice for Cheney. But being called out by his own party — and having to admit error — is certainly an uncommon occurence for him.