WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's stump speech in the past several weeks has included a confused reference to two terrorists. The error seems not to have been noticed until Monday's campaign events.
During remarks in Derry, New Hampshire, on Monday, Bush said the late terrorist Abu Nidal killed Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old Jewish American who died after being tossed -- along with his wheelchair -- off a hijacked cruise liner named Achille Lauro in 1985.
"Do you remember Abu Nidal?" Bush asked the crowd. "He's the guy that killed Leon Klinghoffer. Leon Klinghoffer was murdered because of his religion. Abu Nidal was in Baghdad, as was his organization."
He repeated the mistake Monday evening at a campaign event in New York City: "Abu Nidal was a cold-blooded terrorist killer who killed Leon Klinghoffer."
Actually, it was Abul Abbas, the leader of a violent Palestinian group, who killed Klinghoffer.
The White House had no immediate comment on the mix-up.
Abbas, who was captured in Baghdad last year, was the mastermind of the Achille Lauro hijacking.
His faction of the Palestinian Liberation Front operated out of Tunisia until the cruise ship attack, then relocated to Iraq. U.S. officials say Abbas died of heart disease on March 10 while in U.S. custody in Iraq.
Abu Nidal, a Palestinian renegade, died in Baghdad in 2002. His terrorist organization had been blamed for scores of atrocities, including the 1985 attacks on Rome and Vienna airports in which 20 people were killed and the 1986 attack on a synagogue in Istanbul in which 22 Jewish worshippers were massacred.
Bush's mistake is buried in his stump speech -- in the section in which he makes a case that Saddam Hussein had links to terrorist groups. Indeed, Abu Nidal is believed to have had connections to the former Iraqi leader. But he didn't kill Klinghoffer.
"Remember Abu Nidal?" Bush asked August 28 in Lima, Ohio. "He's the guy that killed Leon Klinghoffer because he was Jewish? He found safe haven in Iraq. In other words, terrorist groups were in this guy's country."
"We knew Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and his support for terror," he told another crowd September 13 in Battle Creek, Michigan. "Abu Nidal, the guy who killed Leon Klinghoffer, he and his organization were in Baghdad."
"He had terrorist ties," Bush told an audience September 16 in Blaine, Minnesota. "Remember Abu Nidal? He was the guy that killed Leon Klinghoffer. He was in Baghdad, and so was his organization."