In the statement, Mr. Clinton's spokesman, Matt McKenna, said the former president "inadvertently misspoke" and "did not in any way mean to suggest that a default would not be highly damaging for the economy even for a very short period of time."
"What he meant to say was that if a vote to extend the debt limit failed in advance of a default, that might not be harmful for a couple of days, but that if people thought that we might actually default, that in his words 'we were literally not going to pay our bills anymore,' then they would stop buying our debt."
Meckler and Paletta reported Thursday that statement came after White House officials asked the former president to retract his earlier comment.
After hearing Mr. Clinton's comments on Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, spoke with aides to Mr. Clinton and advised that he clarify his thinking, two people said. The former president did so that afternoon.
Both Daley and Sperling worked in the Clinton Administration, the former as Commerce Secretary, the latter as an economic adviser. So it wasn't the first time they had to do damage control for him.
Maybe it was just some weird form of symmetry involving major political figures from the 1990s. Newt Gingrich, the Republican House speaker when Clinton was president, recently gave Democrats a gift when he called the House GOP's proposal to privatize Medicare "right-wing social engineering" which he later retracted.
Now Clinton has had to retract his gift to the House GOP.