A Novel Excuse for Lying

An egregious lie has a higher chance of spawning its own meme, and that was certainly the case with former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl’s epic performance in 2011. That year, Senator Kyl made a speech on the Senate floor during a looming government shutdown crisis in which he stated that Planned Parenthood spent over ninety percent of its budget towards abortion-related activities.

“Everybody goes to clinics, to hospitals, to doctors, and so on. Some people go to Planned Parenthood. But you don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.”

This was more than a little false. Politifact quickly chimed in with a correction: “abortions accounted for just under 3 percent of the procedures Planned Parenthood provided in 2009, which is the most recent year for which the group is reporting statistics.”

When presented with the fact that he had just told a gross, mammoth lie on the Senate floor, Kyl’s office released a statement saying that his remark was “not intended to be a factual statement.” Even today, people will mockingly use those words to comment on examples of things that are risibly untrue.

I didn’t think it was possibly to outdo Jon Kyl, but former House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra has accomplished the impossible:

A Dutch journalist just asked new U.S. Ambassador Pete Hoekstra why he said there are “no go” areas in the Netherlands, where radical Muslims are setting cars and politicians on fire.

Hoekstra denied it, and called the claim “fake news.”

The reporter then showed Hoekstra a video clip of himself at a congressional hearing in 2015 saying: “The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned.”

“And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands,” he added in the clip.

Then things got extremely weird.

When the reporter pressed, Hoekstra denied using the term “fake news,” which he’d uttered moments before.

“I didn’t call that fake news,” he said. “I didn’t use the words today. I don’t think I did.”

Hoekstra was being interviewed by reporter Wouter Zwart for current affairs program Nieuwsuur. The interview is not playing well in the Netherlands. (One sample headline: “The new Trump Ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra, lies about his own lies.”)

Jon Kyl was definitely behind the times. He didn’t have to admit that his comments on the Senate floor were not intended to be factual. He could have just said that it was fake news that he had made those assertions and then, presented with the video proving otherwise, he could have denied ever saying it was fake news.

In the end, Kyl used to his senatorial privilege to “revise and extend his remarks” to have his Planned Parenthood lies expunged from from the congressional record. Poor Peter Hoekstra doesn’t have that option.

After running interference for the excesses and torture of the Bush administration during his time as House Intelligence chair, it seems like we might have expected something like this from our new ambassador to the Netherlands. But who could really anticipate lies this brazen?

From now on if you are caught in an outright lie, you can just say, “I didn’t use the words today.”

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.