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A publisher plans to add an advisory note to future copies of a book written by White House adviser Peter Navarro, after it was revealed that Navarro produced one of the people he quoted.
The character Ron Vara appears in Navarro & # 39; s 2011 book, Death By China, which offers serious warnings about Chinese imports.
"Only the Chinese can turn a leather sofa into an acid bath, a cot for a deadly weapon, and a cell phone battery into a heart-piercing grenade," Vara is quoted as saying.
But while the book is not supposed to be fiction, Vara is a composite character.  "Ron Vara is an anagram of Navarro," says Tom Bartlett, a journalist who revealed the rush in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Vara appears in half a dozen of Navarro's books from 2001.
Navarro, who heads the White House's Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, defended manufacturing as a "whimsical entity."
"At no point was the character mistakenly used as a source of fact," he wrote in an email. "It's just a fun unit."
Bartlett became curious about Vara after becoming aware of the character of Tessa Morris-Suzuki, professor emeritus at the Australian National University.
"She is an Asian scientist and worked on an essay on the rather heated rhetoric of Peter Navarro against China," Bartlett said.
While Vara is described in one of the books as a Harvard graduate student – as Navarro himself had been – the school had no record of him.
Eventually, Greg Autry, who co-authored Death By China, acknowledged that Navarro made up the character.
"It is refreshing that someone finally figured out a joke from the inside that has been hiding quite clearly for years," Navarro wrote in his email.
But the former White House economist Glenn Hubbard, who was the author of another book with Vara, told Bartlett that he was not in the joke and that he was not funny.
Nor was Morris-Suzuki.
"As she puts it, the joke is very thin when you come to some statements about China and the Chinese people that are quite negative," Bartlett said. "Ron Vara says things that are quite over the top, and it's hard to interpret them necessarily as whimsical in the way we normally use that word."
Navarro's publisher, Prentice Hall, and its parent company, Pearson, were also in the dark about it invented the character until this week.
"Pearson has strict editorial standards that apply to all of its publishing companies and writers," said Scott Overland, the company's head of media relations. "We take all violations of these standards very seriously and take prompt action when identified."
Overland said Pearson plans to add a publisher's note to future releases, advising readers that "Ron Vara is not a real person, but rather an alias created by Peter Navarro."
However, it is likely that the episode does not cause Navarro any grief with his boss. Donald Trump famously invented his own fictional spokesman, John Barron, in the 1980s. Internetwags have been joking that Barron might be able to offer some PR advice to the newly masked Item.