Dana Perino: The joke I made while Bush WH press secretary that critics still use against me

Be careful what you joke about when you're on the frontlines of American politics.

Fox News anchor Dana Perino had to learn that the hard way soon after she became White House press secretary for President George W. Bush in September 2007.

In a new episode of Perino's Fox Nation show, "Dana Perino's Book Club," Perino and her guest, award-winning correspondent for "CBS Sunday Morning" Mo Rocca, were discussing his new book, "Mobituaries." Then the conversation turned to their mutual friend, Peter Sagal and his NPR radio show, "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!"

"I became the first female Republican White House press secretary and Peter invited me on the show. And I was so excited. And I did it by phone," said Perino.

Perino remembered that they were kidding around about her relatively young age -- she was in her 30s at the time -- when she said something that continues to dog her more than a decade later.

"I made a joke on a humorous show and said, 'Oh, right,' when they asked me about the Cuban Missile Crisis,' and I say, 'Oh, really? What's the Cuban missile crisis?' and I was totally joking."

Perino said that to this day, critics will point to that NPR interview and say, "She's so stupid. She didn't even know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was."

"See how scarred I still am from it?," she joked.

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At the time, media reporting on the supposed revelation bordered on breathlessness.

In December 2007, The New York Times's Peter Baker wrote an article titled, "Perino's 'Missile Crisis' Confession," and suggested that readers buy the new White House press secretary a book on 1962 incident.

Years later, Sagal came to Perino's defense in an interview with The Colorado Springs Independent.  He reportedly said that Perino was "trying to be self-deprecating and charming, in my view, said something to the effect of, 'Oh you know, somebody asked me about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I didn't know what that was.'"

"If I may use this expression, left-wing media went nuts! 'Dana Perino, White House press secretary, doesn't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis is! Oh my God!' Sagal reportedly said, laughing.

Perino said that the media backlash made her wary of revealing anything personal -- until she was encouraged by her Fox News co-hosts on "The Five."

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"That kind of made me nervous to be myself until I came to Fox News, and I was on 'The Five,'" she said. "And even then I was very cautious and they would ask me about it. What is your personal opinion about something? And I was very, very cautious."

"I do have a sense of humor and. And now it's so freeing because I can be myself," she concluded.

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