WASHINGTON (CP) - High-profile U.S. conservative Newt Gingrich has agreed to retract his statement that terrorists involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks entered the United States from Canada. The move came Wednesday after Canada's Ambassador Frank McKenna fired off a letter of complaint.
Gingrich, former Republican speaker in the U.S. House of Representatives and a potential presidential candidate in 2008, "deeply regrets the error," said spokesman Rick Tyler.
"That's become accepted conventional wisdom here. But he'll help to correct the record."
"He wishes he had not repeated that error and had checked it out," Tyler said from Lincoln, Va.
"We're in complete and utter total sympathy with the Canadian ambassador and all Canadians, for that matter."
Gingrich, appearing Tuesday on a Fox News Channel political show, said: "Far more of the 9-11 terrorists came across from Canada than from Mexico."
McKenna, who became Canada's top envoy in the United States last month, wrote Gingrich's comments "perpetuate an urban legend that can take on a life of its own, especially when repeated by people whose opinions are deeply respected in the United States."
"Canadians and Americans are great friends. And great friends can tell it like it is."
"In the interest of that friendship and to set the record straight I ask that you retract your statement."
McKenna noted former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft is on the record saying: "None of the terrorists from the Sept. 11 carnage came to the United States through Canada."
A 9-11 commission report has also detailed how the terrorists entered with U.S. visas and none came through Canada.
The faulty perception began shortly after the attacks, when U.S. news reports wrongly said some of the hijackers crossed the border.
The ambassador also wrote a letter to the New York Times newspaper last month after an editorial alleged terrorists routinely cross the enter the United States from Canada.
He noted Canada has spent over $9 billion Cdn on security since the attacks, especially on implementing the so-called smart border plan.
Gingrich plans to personally reply to McKenna, said Tyler, and will do what he can to debunk the claim.
"He's a public figure and I'm sure he'll be asked about it. He'll correct the record whenever he's asked."