ABC Notes Bill Clinton Lost Nuclear Codes While President, Maybe Jimmy Carter Too

Among Wednesday’s broadcast network evening newscasts, ABC’s World News uniquely informed viewers of revelations that former President Bill Clinton lost the nuclear codes required for the commander in chief to set in motion any use of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Noting that similar accusations had been made seven years ago in the book of retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert Patterson – who notably received attention on Fox News Channel at the time and was cited in ABC’s piece – correspondent John Donvan quoted from the more current source, the memoir of former Joint Chiefs Chairman Hugh Shelton. Donvan:

Think of it like an ATM pin number to get your money, except that when Bill Clinton was President, someone lost the biscuit. This is according to the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Hugh Shelton, who’s just come out with a memoir, and it’s right there on page 392. "At one point during the Clinton administration, the codes were actually missing. That's a big deal," Shelton writes, "a gargantuan deal." Especially, he says, because the codes were unaccounted for for months.

A clip of Lieutenant Colonel Patterson was shown recounting: "[President Clinton] thought he had misplaced them upstairs. We called upstairs, we started a White House, kind of a pretty thorough search around the White House for the codes, and he finally confessed hours later that he, in fact, misplaced them. He couldn't recall when he had last seen them."

Donvan later brought up the rumor that former President Carter had his own incident with the nuclear codes: "Today [Bill Clinton’s] office is not commenting. Same as no one’s confirming or denying another old tale that Jimmy Carter once left his biscuit in a suit that got sent to the cleaners."

Below is a complete transcript of the report from the Wednesday, October 20, World News on ABC:

DIANE SAWYER: We know that the people in the White House are people, like us, misplacing things. But the nuclear code? And was the person who did it in the Oval Office? John Donvan has a report.

JOHN DONVAN: Things that a President can lose: some key votes in Congress, his standing in the polls, a game of golf. Things that a President can never lose, never, ever: the card with the nuclear codes on it. The one that lets him get into that black briefcase that an aide always brings along, inside which are instructions for launching a nuclear attack. Like the briefcase, which is called the football, that card, which is called the biscuit, is supposed to be with the President at all times, giving him numbers to read out loud that identify him to everyone in the system as the commander in chief. That's why you don't lose the biscuit. Think of it like an ATM pin number to get your money, except that when Bill Clinton was President, someone lost the biscuit. This is according to the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Hugh Shelton, who’s just come out with a memoir, and it’s right there on page 392.

"At one point during the Clinton administration, the codes were actually missing. That's a big deal," Shelton writes, "a gargantuan deal." Especially, he says, because the codes were unaccounted for for months. Actually, this Clinton critic told a quite similar story in his own book, seven years ago. Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Robert Patterson was one of those men who carried the football for Clinton. He says Clinton is the someone who lost the biscuit.

RETIRED LIEUTENANT COLONEL ROBERT PATTERSON, AUTHOR OF DERELICTION OF DUTY: He thought he had misplaced them upstairs. We called upstairs, we started a White House, kind of a pretty thorough search around the White House for the codes, and he finally confessed hours later that he, in fact, misplaced them. He couldn't recall when he had last seen them.

DONVAN: Who’s to say the President couldn't have just picked up the phone to order an attack? Today, his office is not commenting. Same as no one’s confirming or denying another old tale that Jimmy Carter once left his biscuit in a suit that got sent to the cleaners. John Donvan, ABC News, Washington.

SAWYER: Can someone look out for the biscuit and the football? Hope you have a great night and that we see you right back here for World News tomorrow night. We'll be here. See you then.