WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001, according to a study released Tuesday by two nonprofit journalism groups.
President Bush addresses the nation as the Iraq war begins in March 2003.
"In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003," reads an overview of the examination, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism.
According to the study, Bush and seven top officials -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice -- made 935 false statements about Iraq during those two years.
The study was based on a searchable database compiled of primary sources, such as official government transcripts and speeches, and secondary sources -- mainly quotes from major media organizations. See CNN viewers' reactions to the study »
The study says Bush made 232 false statements about Iraq and former leader Saddam Hussein's possessing weapons of mass destruction, and 28 false statements about Iraq's links to al Qaeda.
Bush has consistently asserted that at the time he and other officials made the statements, the intelligence community of the U.S. and several other nations, including Britain, believed Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Responding to the study Wednesday, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not speak directly to the "false claims" characterization.
But he said the United States was part of a broad coalition of nations that took part in the Iraq invasion and that the invasion was based on intelligence from multiple countries.
He called Hussein a threat to international security and a sponsor of terrorism, and said the world is better off without him. White House press secretary Dana Perino called the study "flawed."
"They only looked at members of the administration, rather than looking at members of Congress or people around the world," she said. "Because as you'll remember, we were part of a broad coalition of countries that deposed a dictator based on a collective understanding of the intelligence."
"And the other thing that that study fails to do is to say that after realizing that there was no WMD, as we thought as a collective body that there was, that this White House, the President set about to make reforms in the intelligence community to make sure that it doesn't happen again."
Bush has repeatedly said that despite the intelligence flaws, removing Hussein from power was the right thing to do.
The study, released Tuesday, says Powell had the second-highest number of false statements, with 244 about weapons and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Press Secretary Ari Fleischer each made 109 false statements, it says. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz made 85, Rice made 56, Cheney made 48 and Scott McLellan, also a press secretary, made 14, the study says.
"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al Qaeda," the report reads, citing multiple government reports, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the 9/11 Commission and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, which reported that Hussein had suspended Iraq's nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to revive it.
The overview of the study also calls the media to task, saying most media outlets didn't do enough to investigate the claims.
"Some journalists -- indeed, even some entire news organizations -- have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical," the report reads. "These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq."
The quotes in the study include an August 26, 2002, statement by Cheney to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Cheney said. "There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." E-mail to a friend
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