ABC News' Rick Klein reports: President Bush has spent a whole lot of time in recent months claiming that the immigration bill isn't "amnesty."
But in describing the measure Tuesday morning, an apparent slip of the tongue suggested otherwise -- providing fodder for the talk-radio crowd that loathes the bill and wants it defeated in the Senate.
"You know, I've heard all the rhetoric -- you've heard it, too -- about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you've got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that," Bush said, according to the official White House transcript.
This just might get the attention of Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh -- and it's terrible timing for the president, with a key vote in the Senate Tuesday afternoon.
UPDATE: At 11:43 am, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow released a statement saying the president "misspoke."
The statement reads:
"This has been construed as an assertion that comprehensive immigration reform legislation before the Senate offers amnesty to immigrants who came here illegally. That is the exact opposite of the presidentâ€™s long-held and often-stated position.
"President Bush has noted repeatedly that the comprehensive reform he supports is not an amnesty bill. Amnesty means forgiving wrongdoing without imposing punishment. The immigration reforms passed in 1986 granted amnesty. The legislation under consideration this year does not. This measure imposes significant punishments on those who came to this country illegally between 1986 and the beginning of this year. In fact, the White House website addresses the myth that the measure is amnesty. For more, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/06/20070608-10.html."