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Perino ‘Defends’ Email Statements: I Didn’t Lie, I Just Had No Idea What I Was Talking About

In this afternoon’s press briefing, the White House press corps confronted spokeswoman Dana Perino about her previous misstatements regarding the White House’s use of RNC email accounts. On March 27, Perino claimed that there were only a “handful” of staffers with such accounts. Today, Perino claimed that her earlier statement was made despite her ignorance of what was actually going on. “Well, I didn’t know how many there were,” Perino said. “I grant you, it’s a very large handful.”

CNN’s White House correspondent Ed Henry then pressed her on why she had earlier stated that RNC emails had been archived for a very long time when the White House now claims that those emails have been lost. On March 27, Perino said RNC archiving was “something that was in place” for years. Today, she backed off that statement and said, “We have developed a better understanding of how the RNC archived or did not archive certain e-mails.” She refused to further elaborate.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/04/perinohandful.320.240.flv]

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Perino defended herself, arguing, “When I said a ‘handful,’ I was asked based on something that I didn’t know.” Apparently, Perino believes if you don’t know the truth, you’re allowed to make up whatever you want.

Transcript:

QUESTION: On March 27th, at this podium, you said that there were only a handful of White House aides who had used political RNC accounts. Now you’re saying 22; that doesn’t sound like a handful.

PERINO: Well, I didn’t know how many there were. And I think that, again, if you look at the number of people that work at the White House, almost 2,000, to have 22 people that — I mean, obviously, I grant you it’s a very large handful, but it’s still a relatively small number.

And it’s based on the people who have responsibilities — both White House official responsibilities but that also have responsibilities, in their job description, to do political activities.

And to make sure that they didn’t violate the Hatch Act, they had access to this other equipment.

QUESTION: But then the L.A. Times, today, quotes Scott (inaudible) as saying that there were about 50 aides.

PERINO: I think the 22 is current — current White House employees.

PERINO: We’re looking — if you have 50 over the course of the administration.

QUESTION: At that March 27th briefing as well, you said that Fred Fielding, the White House counsel, was in touch with the RNC general counsel to make sure that there was archiving taking place. And when pressed on it, you said that these were not archived just since Henry Waxman had asked you about it on the Hill, that they had been archived for a very long time. So how would…

PERINO: And I think that’s going back to those a few weeks ago. This is how we have developed a better understanding of how the RNC archived or did not archive certain e-mails. As I said, folks like Karl Rove, e-mails using this equipment, go back to being archived to 2004.

The extent of how many people had these accounts, I didn’t have it readily at my fingertips. I understood it to be a handful of people. I knew that it would be at least some, if not all, of the people that worked in the Office of Political Affairs.

[…]

QUESTION: But what you’ve said has shifted even over the last couple of weeks.

PERINO: Give me an example of that.

QUESTION: Fifty, 22, handful.

PERINO: And I explained that. I think — you have to admit that when I said a handful I was asked based on something that I didn’t know.