Laura Bush vs. German Chef: Was She Actually Poisoned?

In her new memoir, Laura Bush wonders if she was poisoned while in Germany in 2007. The chef who cooked her food says she's crazy. Simple stomach flu, or al Qaeda poison conspiracy? Whom do we believe?! The chef, probably.

Among the standard political-memoir anecdotes and score-settlings in Laura Bush's Spoken from the Heart is the weirdly explicit implication that she, her husband, and many of the members of the American delegation were poisoned at the 2007 G-8 summit in Germany:

In the past, there had been several high-profile poisonings, including one with suspected nuclear material, in and around Europe. The overriding fear was that terrorists had gotten control of a dangerous substance and planted it at the resort.

Der Spiegel details more of her claims:

Laura Bush writes in her memoir that the Secret Service went on full alert, combing the entire hotel for potential poisons....

Bush writes that she doesn't even know herself if any poison was discovered. She writes that the most concrete conclusion any doctors could reach is that "we contracted a virus that attacks a nerve near the inner ear and is prevalent in Heiligendamm." She claims that one White House staffer lost all hearing in one ear and that another had trouble walking. The military aide's "gait has never returned to normal," she writes, "nor has our senior staffer regained hearing in that ear."

That passage has understandably riled up the chef who cooked most of her food, Steffen Duckhorn. When the President started feeling sick, Duckhorn says, "We immediately contacted the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation to find out if there was anything to it.There was nothing." Nonetheless, because "every chef has his honor," he is assembling a defense.

The evidence for and against is as follows:

"Laura Bush Was Poisoned"

  • A lot of people felt sick.
  • People, in the past, had been poisoned. High-profile people.

"Laura Bush Was Not Poisoned"

  • Toxicologists were testing "every bit of food" being cooked by Duckhorn and his crew.
  • The kitchen only cooked for the President and his wife. The rest of the American delegation, according to Duckhorn, were eating "their own cola and M&Ms with the White House logo on them," which sounds about right.
  • The ingredients and suppliers were thoroughly checked out, both before and during the summit.
  • Duckhorn and his chefs were constantly tasting their own food and were never sick.

As for the President's opinion?

Steffen Duckhorn met the president, who was in what Duckhorn describes as good spirits, in the courtyard. Bush shook his hand and praised the cook for his meals. "Hey man, good food," Duckhorn recalls him saying.

[Der Spiegel; pic via AP]