Hope Springs Eternal

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It was all very embarrassing. Majority Leader Dick Armey was on his way to the House when a staffer handed him an AP story declaring that "Bob Hope, the master of the one-liners and tireless morale-booster for servicemen from World War II to the Gulf War, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. He was xx."

The blanks-and-all pre-obituary was actually an Associated Press "preparedness" story that was mistakenly posted on the wire service's web site. But neither the staffer nor Armey caught on. Armey went straight to Rep. Bob Stump of Arizona and asked him to announce Hope's death on the House floor. Reuters picked up the Stump speech -- broadcast live on C-SPAN -- and ABC reported the death of Hope in a special national news alert, complete with a package of clips and performances.

Hope, of course, wasn't dead at all but having breakfast at home in California. His daughter Linda confirmed this when the embarrassed Armey and Stump called to apologize. And the staffer who took the obit at its word? "It got handed straight to Armey, and that doesn't normally happen," Michelle Davis of Armey's press office admitted to TIME Daily. "It wasn't someone who regularly deals with the press." And would this person now be an ex- staffer? "Not at all," said Davis. "That's ridiculous."