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Twists, Turns of Presidential Pretzel Crisis

Media: Any news agency worth its salt knows how to separate fact from fiction in Bush caper. The lowdown on a 'savory snack.'


During a national esophageal crisis, it's more important than ever to present the facts and work to dispel rumors:

TRUE: President Bush, 55, fainted briefly last Sunday in the White House after choking on a pretzel. The president, who was watching the Baltimore Ravens-Miami Dolphins football wild card playoff game, quickly recovered and was reportedly in fine health except for a scrape and bruise on his face that came from his fall from the couch.

FALSE: The Dolphins' doddering offense caused the president's choking and subsequent loss of consciousness.

TRUE: The president apparently experienced a "vasovagal syncope" episode, whereby his coughing stimulated a nerve that triggered a temporary decrease in his heart rate.

FALSE: Fox News war correspondent Geraldo Rivera said the Lord's Prayer over the "hallowed ground" where the president conked his head, as the two presidential dogs looked on.

TRUE: Headlines from international newspapers came down in buckets Monday: "Bush in Pretzel Scare" (Scottish Daily Record), "Bush Faints Over Biscuit" (The Mirror), "President Downed By Pretzel" (The Herald Sun), and "Bush Finds Pretzel Hard to Swallow" (Calgary Herald).

FALSE: In the United States, the pretzel is also called a biscuit.

TRUE: Each fall, the Snack Food Assn.--a Virginia-based trade group--sponsors its "exciting and fantastic" annual pretzel seminar. Last November, in York, Pa., the 2001 Pretzel Seminar attracted more than 80 attendees and featured a tour of Stauffer's C-P Converters. "The 31 tabletop exhibits at the Wednesday afternoon lunch did a brisk business," reported the association's newsletter, the "Snack Report."

FALSE: At last year's pretzel seminar, Britney Spears debuted her new song, "I'm a Slave 4 U." Spears then joined the other attendees for a round of golf at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort. Spears recorded a par-72 after members of her foursome agreed among themselves to fabricate her score in hopes of prolonging her first visit to York, Pa.

TRUE: Pretzel sales garner roughly 5% of the $20.69 billion "savory snack" market in the United States, according to the Snack Food Assn. Savory snacks include popcorn (not theater popcorn), potato chips, tortilla snacks and meat snacks.

FALSE: "Beef Jerky" pretzels are a leading savory snack.

TRUE: Popular forms of pretzels include: twist, mini, sticks, rods, nuggets, thin, knots, sourdough and filled.

FALSE: Created in A.D. 610, the first known pretzels were used to choke especially cranky monks in southern France.

TRUE: Snack historians say pretzels were created in 1800 by monks who spent long hours forming chunks of dough in the shape of a person's hand while praying.

FALSE: Vice President Dick Cheney, who watched the Ravens-Dolphins game from an undisclosed location, was ordered by the Secret Service to immediately "put down" his Doritos and cease watching the second half.

TRUE: "We're glad the president enjoys savory snacks," said Ann Wilkes, spokeswoman for the Snack Food Assn.

"We're grateful the president is OK, but choking can happen with any solid food."

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