WASHINGTON – When you're busted, better to admit it.
A top White House aide has apologized to a prominent conservative columnist after a public spat over the status of a bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The aide, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, conceded Tuesday that "I clearly overshot the runway" by declaring that Charles Krauthammer's claim was "100 percent false."
At issue was a Krauthammer opinion piece last Friday about U.S. foreign policy and Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney's international trip. In it, Krauthammer stated that Obama "started his presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office."
Pfeiffer, a feisty defender of the president, posted a blog on the White House website denouncing the claim, noting that the bust remained at the White House and declaring: "This is 100 percent false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room."
Pfeiffer was wrong. Turns out there were two busts. One was returned on Inauguration Day; the other remained in the White House residence.
"I take your criticism seriously and you are correct that you are owed an apology," Pfeiffer wrote in an email to Krauthammer. "There was clearly an internal confusion about the two busts and there was no intention to deceive."
Pfeiffer, at Krauthammer's request, posted the email on the White House website.
"A better understanding of the facts on my part and a couple of deep breaths at the outset would have prevented this situation," he wrote.
Krauthammer had criticized Pfeiffer in a column Monday and declared that given the hot hitting by Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, "I reckon the Nationals will win the World Series before I receive Pfeiffer's mea culpa."
To that, Pfeiffer replied: "Barring a miracle comeback from the Phillies I would like to see the Nats win a world series even if it comes after my apology."