On Thrusday's "AC360," Anderson Cooper debunked the false story about the supposedly enormous price tag for President Obama's ten-day tour of Asia, and slammed conservative politicians and pundits for spreading the myth.
Cooper opened his show by promising to refute "a made-up story about the president of the United States." He stressed that it was "not [my] job to defend the president," but that there were plenty of real things to criticize President Obama about without resorting to falsehoods.
The notion that Obama's trip to India and other Asian countries will cost $200 million a day and will involve the deployment of 34 Navy ships sprang from a story published by the Press Trust of India on Tuesday. In that article, "a top official of the Maharashtra government privy to the arrangements for the high-profile visit" used the $200 million figure.
Cooper said that this was pretty thin material with which to attack Obama.
"We have no idea who this person is, no name was given," he said. "It was an anonymous quote -- the conduct Sarah Palin has recently been railing against. Some reporter in India wrote this article with this figure in it, no proof was given, no follow-up reporting done."
The story spread throughout conservative circles, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was even asked about it at Thursday's press briefing. Cooper played clips of pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage harshly criticizing Obama for supposedly wasting taxpayer funds on his trip during a time of austerity.
He also replayed portions of an interview he held with Michele Bachmann on his Wednesday show, where she used the $200 million figure.
"Now, you'd think if a member of Congress was going to use this figure as a fact, she would want to be pretty darn sure it was accurate, right?" Cooper said.
He pointed out that the entire war in Afghanistan costs $190 million a day, and so the notion that Obama's trip would cost more than that makes no sense. He also calculated that a similar trip that President Clinton had made to Africa in 1998 had only cost $5.2 million a day in 2010 dollars -- and that Obama's trip would be shorter than Clinton's.
Cooper then brought on Andrew Card, President Bush's former Chief of Staff, and Democratic strategist James Carville. While speaking to them, he further criticized Bachmann.
"Michele Bachmann used up our air time last night, rather than answering questions about Medicare...and she chose to spread a story which is blatantly false," he said.
"And you're flogging the heck out of it and I think that's not very responsible, either," Card replied. "There are bigger issues to talk about."
"I wanted to check the facts," Cooper responded.