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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Uncited quotation gets Bush, alum in hot water

All Charles Trumbull '02 wanted was a good grade on a history independent study term paper. Instead, he became embroiled in a cross-national war of words in what has become the latest chapter of the bitter U.S.-Cuba relationship -- a chapter Trumbull said would not have started if the White House had accurately cited his paper.

Last month, President Bush quoted from Trumbull's paper on Cuba's economy by to rail against Fidel Castro's supposed promotion of prostitution.

"The dictator welcomes sex tourism. Here's how he bragged about the industry," Bush said in July 16 speech to a group of law enforcement officials in Tampa. "This is his quote: 'Cuba has the cleanest and most educated prostitutes in the world.'"

While the White House is standing by the merits of the President's accusations, Trumbull told the Dartmouth that Bush's use of his paper was "completely inaccurate."

Although Trumbull's paper was highly successful, winning an award from the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, the quote Bush used was not actually footnoted. Trumbull now says that the quote was a paraphrase of a 1992 speech to the National Assembly.

Regardless of the lack of a footnote, Trumbull said that his entire paper accurately reflected Castro's position at the time. He added that the quote was contextualized as part of Castro's attempts to disguise a prostitution boom in the early 1990s.

"Bush's speechwriter took the quote completely out of context," Trumbull said. "Because in the same paragraph I explained what Castro was saying. Its a little frustrating."

According to Trumbull, Castro would never promote prostitution because it represents a failure of his revolution. The jolt to the Cuban economy felt after the collapse of the Soviet Union forced many poor Cuban women into prostitution.

"There are prostitutes, but prostitution is not allowed in our country," Castro actually said 12 years ago. "There are no women forced to sell themselves to a man, to a foreigner, to a tourist."

The dictator responded to Bush in a typical fashion, using the occasion of a July 26 Cuban holiday to fight back against the prostitution charge, even alluding to the President's alcoholism as a reason for the misquote.

Trumbull was actually watching CNN at the time of Bush's sex trade accusations with a couple of friends in Puerto Rico, where he is clerking for a federal judge this summer. He said he was shocked to hear Bush's comments, although unbeknownst to Trumbull at the time, his paper was the source.

"I turned to my friend and said, 'I wonder where he got that info, I've never heard of that before,'" Trumbull said.

Trumbull said that the quote was taken off several Internet sites summarizing Castro's speech, but he could never find the text of the 1992 speech because Cuban original sources are more difficult to locate than U.S. ones.

Trumbull told the Los Angeles Times that a reason for the lack of a footnote was that he did not understand the importance of sources at Dartmouth.

"That was before I was in law school and understood that you have to footnote everything," he was quoted as saying in the July 20 article.

But Trumbull said he "never meant to imply that Dartmouth failed to teach the importance of footnoting," adding that the L.A. Times reporter actually took his quote out of context. Despite the lack of a footnote, the paper did pass through Dartmouth's screening process and win a national prize.

The Bush / Castro war of words received major press coverage, not only from the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story, but also from several newspapers in Florida, where the majority of Cuban Americans live. Although he complained of being misquoted, Trumbull said he's happy the press is checking up on Bush's sources.

Trumbull is now a second-year law student at Vanderbilt University. Unfortunately, after the L.A. Times story ran, he was "cold-cocked" by a bouncer at an Old San Juan nightclub, giving him a concussion.

Run out of the history department and supervised by professor Judith Byfield, he received a grant for the paper, from the Dickey Center to travel to Cuba for research. At Dartmouth, Trumbull, a philosophy major, was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, played volleyball and taught Spanish drill.