This wasn't a slip of the tongue. He said it a full seven (7!) times. It sounds like he's got his scientific terms badly mixed up - I think most people, even if they are not scientists, know that an embryo by definition is the result of fertilization - i.e. the fusion of egg and sperm cell.
Gupta: Let's talk about something you talked a lot about in the early part of your presidency, stem cells. There was an order today providing federal money for embryonic stem cell research. First of all, let me just ask you, as someone who studied this, is this going to always be as divisive an issue as it is now? Is this going to be the abortion of the next generation? Or are people going to come around?
Clinton: I think - the answer is I think that we'll work it through. If - particularly if it's done right. If it's obvious that we're not taking embryos that can - that under any conceivable scenario would be used for a process that would allow them to be fertilized and become little babies, and I think if it's obvious that we're not talking about some science fiction cloning of human beings, then I think the American people will support this....
Gupta: Any reservations?
Clinton: I don't know that I have any reservations, but I was - he has apparently decided to leave to the relevant professional committees the definition of which frozen embryos are basically going to be discarded, because they're not going to be fertilized. I believe the American people believe it's a pro-life decision to use an embryo that's frozen and never going to be fertilized for embryonic stem cell research....But those committees need to be really careful to make sure if they don't want a big storm to be stirred up here, that any of the embryos that are used clearly have been placed beyond the pale of being fertilized before their use. There are a large number of embryos that we know are never going to be fertilized, where the people who are in control of them have made that clear. The research ought to be confined to those....But there are values involved that we all ought to feel free to discuss in all scientific research. And that is the one thing that I think these committees need to make it clear that they're not going to fool with any embryos where there's any possibility, even if it's somewhat remote, that they could be fertilized and become human beings.
Even if most people can't be expected to know that, I find it sigularly damning that he, as former President of the United States doesn't - especially as his administration, even he himself, has crafted policies on this matter. If I'm not mistaken, the Clinton administration gave the green light for government-funded experimentation on human embryos to go ahead. One might legitimately ask, based on this interview, whether that policy was based on false assumptions?
Even if Bill Clinton couldn't be expected to know better, Dr. Gupta, who is a prominent neurosurgeon, definitely should. Yet he lets Clinton get away with this gross misconception. And to think that he might have been Surgeon General! The man is a disgrace to his profession.
From Creative Minority Report. The redoubtable Jill Stanek has a story on this as well. Apparently it's not the first time Clinton has said this.