UPDATE: Breitbart.com has updated their post in a manner that makes clear they made no attempt to confirm the accuracy of the quote cited before publication of the initial story. The conservative news site merely marked out “own words” and noted at the bottom of the post, “The source of the quote has since clarified that Rhodes did not use those words.” The tweet Breitbart.com cited as the “source of the quote” included video of the remarks which, if viewed, makes clear that Rhodes had made no such comment.
Breitbart.com inaccurately attributed a fake quote from a facetious tweet to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes in an attempt to smear the Obama administration for negotiating with Iran.
Rhodes sat down with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg on June 29 at the Aspen Ideas Festival to discuss the U.S.' nuclear talks with Iran. When asked whether President Obama believes negotiations will lead to a change in Iran's behavior, Rhodes responded affirmatively and added, “We believe that an agreement is necessary and has to be good enough to be worth doing even if Iran doesn't change. If 10 or 15 years from now Iran is the same as it is today, in terms of its government, the deal has to be good enough that it can exist on those merits.”
Brookings Institute senior fellow Mike Doran ridiculed Rhodes' response in a June 30 tweet, summarizing it as an effort to “turn the Iranian frog into a handsome prince” :
Ben Rhodes: “We believe that the kiss of the nuke deal will turn the Iranian frog into a handsome prince” | https://t.co/F7SkdslCJw
-- Mike Doran (@Doranimated) June 30, 2015
In a rush to attack Rhodes and Obama, Breitbart.com reported the mocking tweet as an actual quote from the interview, apparently neglecting to watch the discussion between Rhodes and Goldberg. Breitbart.com editor Joel Pollak claimed in a July 1 post that the phrase came from Rhodes' “own words,” accusing him of telling “fairy tales to the American public” (emphasis added):
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes-who lacks any prior qualifications for the post-has explained to the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg at the Aspen Ideas Festivalon Monday that the administration believes that a bad Iran deal is worth doing because political reform inside the Iranian regime is more likely with the deal than without. Or, to use Rhodes's own words: “We believe that the kiss of the nuke deal will turn the Iranian frog into a handsome prince.”
A “fairy tale” analogy is appropriate indeed.
Goldberg called out Breitbart for “totally manufacturing quotes” on Twitter, and later Doran explained how he was merely “ridicul[ing]” Rhodes and it “did not occur to me that anybody would think he actually used those words” :
@jvmadden I ridiculed him. It did not occur to me that anybody would think he actually used those words.
-- Mike Doran (@Doranimated) July 7, 2015
Last year, Breitbart.com's Pollak similarly attacked the wrong Loretta Lynch in an attempt to smear the attorney general nominee, misidentifying a California based attorney for the president's pick for AG.
As of this posting, Breitbart.com has yet to correct their inaccurate report.