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Top ten recent politicians to excuse stupid comments with "I misspoke"

Earlier, we reported about Representative Mike Coffman's excuse for a comment he made suggesting that Barack Obama may not have been born in the U.S.: "I misspoke." By making this claim, Coffman is in good company: It's become a favorite of politicians who say something dumb or inaccurate but want to soften the blow. Here's a top ten countdown of other public figures who've trotted it out. Number 10: Herman Cain Man, do we wish the Herminator, who was a reliable (and frequently hilarious) source of blather while a Republican presidential candidate. Example: In a PBS interview, he said that China was trying to develop nuclear capability -- which it's had for nearly a half century. His response? "Maybe I misspoke," he said. "What I meant was China does not have the size of the nuclear capability that we have. They do have a nuclear capability. I was talking about their total nuclear capability." Number 9: Hillary Clinton Back in 2008, Clinton told a story about a mid-'90s trip to Bosnia during which she supposedly had to run to her plane due to fear of sniper fire. Shortly thereafter, video surfaced from the previous visit, during which she could be seen strolling to the aircraft as if she didn't have a care in the world. Her response: "What I was told was that we had to land a certain way and move quickly because of the threat of sniper fire. So I misspoke -- I didn't say that in my book or other times but if I said something that made it seem as though there was actual fire -- that's not what I was told. I was told we had to land a certain way, we had to have our bulletproof stuff on because of the threat of sniper fire." Page down to continue reading our list of the top ten recent politicians to excuse stupid comments with "I misspoke." Number 8: Orrin Hatch The Utah senator publicly claimed that 95 percent of Planned Parenthood's operations deal with abortions -- a figure that's not even close to reality. (The organization's 2010 annual report put the number at 3 percent.) Hatch's staff subsequently said he "misspoke." Number 7: Robert Gibbs While serving as the president's press secretary in 2009, Gibbs called Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iran's "elected leader" and claimed that Washington would let the Iranian people decide whether Iran's election was fair, NPR reported. Problem is, the election was widely regarded to have been rigged, calling into question whether Ahmadinejad could be fairly called an "elected leader" -- a gripe Gibbs pretty much acknowledged when he said he'd "misspoken." Page down to continue reading our list of the top ten recent politicians to excuse stupid comments with "I misspoke." Number 6: Paul Ryan One of the most powerful Republicans in Congress, Representative Paul Ryan didn't have a lot of good things to say about generals who testified about the Pentagon's budget. At one event, he announced, "We don't think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don't think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget." That sounds a lot like he was calling the top military leaders in the country liars. But no: He hurried over to ABC to offer a mea culpa. In his words, "I totally misspoke." Number 5: Kathleen Sebelius Back in 2009, during the heath-reform rebate, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius said a government-run health insurance option was "not an essential part" of reform during a CNN interview. This wasn't the message the administration was trying to send at that point, which is why an official quickly stepped forward to say she "misspoke." But the source asked for anonymity -- an indication that he or she didn't want to get dirtied by the same stuff that had splashed on Sebelius. Page down to continue reading our list of the top ten recent politicians to excuse stupid comments with "I misspoke." Number 4: Rick Santorum While stumping in Ohio, former presidential candidate Santorum allowed that President Obama's agenda was based in "phony theology...not a theology based on the Bible," according to the Washington Post. He backpedaled the next day to claim he was "talking about the radical environmentalists" and wasn't questioning whether or not Obama was a Christian. But days later, one of his aides claimed Santorum was actually referencing the"radical Islamic policies the president has." A short time later, she said -- yes -- that she misspoke. Number 3: Mitt Romney On CNN, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney said, "I'm not concerned about the very poor" by way of emphasizing his eagerness to fight for the middle class. But that's not what he meant, he insisted afterward: "It was a misstatement; I misspoke.... I've said something that is similar to that but quite acceptable for a long time." Page down to continue reading our list of the top ten recent politicians to excuse stupid comments with "I misspoke." Number 2: Newt Gingrich In an interview, Gingrich's ex-wife claimed her hubby had asked her for an open marriage. In a debate immediately thereafter, he claimed from the podium that the network that aired the piece, ABC, hadn't deigned to air footage of people suggested by his campaign who might have been able to refute the assertion. Problem is, Gingrich's handlers hadn't offered anyone for this duty other than his daughters from a previous marriage, who were shown by ABC supporting Newt. Oops, his handlers responded: He misspoke. Number 1: Kurt Zellers In a radio interview, Zellers, the speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, said that he would be voting against a measure to fund a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings football team, but he wanted it to pass. Contradictory? Yep. But Zellers' attempt to explain itself was even more confusing, as witnessed by this hilarious exchange courtesy of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Reporter 1: "Can you explain what you 'misspoke' on? Do you not hope the bill will pass? Or do you hope the bill will pass?

Zellers: "I said what I said. I made a mistake. I can admit it."

Reporter 1: "Right but what was the mistake?"

Reporter 2: "You actually don't want it to pass, is that what you're saying?"

Zellers: "No."

Reporter 1: "You want it to pass?"

Zellers: "I'm not going to make any more mistakes."

Reporter 1: "Right. But you said you misspoke and you made a mistake. I'm trying to figure out what you think was the mistake. That's an honest question."

Zellers: "I corrected it."

Reporter 1: "So what's the correction?...Can you explain?"

Not so that anyone could understand.

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