They call it "walking back."
"White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Wednesday said he had misspoken in calling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iran's 'elected leader' and that Washington will let the Iranian people decide whether Iran's election was fair," Reuters reports.
"Let me correct a little bit of what I said yesterday. I denoted that Mr. Ahmadinejad was the elected leader of Iran. I would say that's not for me to pass judgment on," Gibbs told
reporters aboard Air Force One, as they traveled with President Barack Obama to Indiana.
Referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Gibbs added that:
"He's been inaugurated. That's a fact. Whether any election was fair, obviously the Iranian people still have questions about that, and we'll let them decide about that."
Ahmadinejad's opponents in the June 12 Iranian presidential election believe it was rigged in his favor. Since then, protests in Tehran and other cities have been met with force.
Today, Ahmadinejad was sworn in for his second term. But opponents have vowed to continue putting pressure on his government.
Some of the widely read conservative blogs, such as Hot Air, jumped on Gibbs' "elected leader" comment yesterday. It was a "disgrace," that blog declared.
Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. Here's a White House-produced transcript of Gibbs' conversation with reporters about the Iran comment:
Question: "Switching topics slightly and then we might go back to North Korea. Do you have any reaction to the swearing-in of President Ahmadinejad in Iran today?"
Gibbs: "Well, let me correct a little bit of what I said yesterday. I denoted that Mr. Ahmadinejad was the elected leader of Iran. I would say it's not for me to pass judgment on. He's been inaugurated, that's a fact. Whether any election was fair, obviously the Iranian people still have questions about that and we'll let them decide that. But I would simply say he's been inaugurated and we know that is simply a fact."
Question: "Do you recognize him as the leader, elected fairly or not?"
Gibbs: "It's not for -- it's not for me or for us to denote his legitimacy, except to acknowledge the fact."
Question: "Does the White House believe the election was fair?"
Gibbs: "That's not for us to pass judgment on. I think that's for the Iranian people to decide, and obviously there are many that still have a lot of questions."