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Geithner denies ignoring Obama's request on banks

Staff reports Updated: September 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Monday vehemently denied unflattering portrayals in an upcoming, behind-the-scenes book about the White House's response to the financial crisis, with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner saying its compilation of "sad little stories" bore no relation to reality.

Chief White House spokesman Jay Carney claimed that one passage appeared to have been lifted from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

The book, "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and The Education of A President," says Geithner ignored an order from President Barack Obama to help firm up the banking industry. Geithner said he absolutely did not and would never ignore a request from the president.

"I would never contemplate doing that," he said Monday at the White House. "I lived the original, and the reality I lived, we all lived together, bears no relation to the sad little stories I heard reported from that book."

Geithner said he hasn't read the latest work by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, which is set for release Tuesday. The Associated Press bought a copy last week.

Carney portrayed the book as riddled with factual errors. He said he also has not read the book.

"What we know is that very simple things, facts that could be ascertained — dates, titles, statistics, quotes — are wrong in this book," Carney said, adding that one passage seemed to be lifted almost entirely from Wikipedia.

"Based on that, I would caution anyone to assume that if you can't get those things that you suddenly get the broader analysis right. That analysis is wrong," Carney said.

The spokesman apparently was referring to a Politico report on the book noting that a passage about Fannie Mae was similar to what Wikipedia says about the government-controlled mortgage buyer.

Suskind interviewed more than 200 people, including Obama, Geithner and other top administration officials for the book, which says that Geithner and the Treasury Department ignored a March 2009 order to consider dissolving banking giant Citigroup while continuing stress tests on banks, which at the time were burdened with toxic mortgage assets.

The book also portrays Obama as struggling with a divided group of advisers.

Suskind did not immediately return an email request for comment.

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