The White House is hiding its blushes after the historic meeting between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin collapsed into farce with the US leader confusing Marxism with the Marx Brothers.
The stage was set for Putin to urge Bush to "renew America's commitment to democracy and human rights".
But, according to Russian sources, the meeting between the two leaders became awkward within the first few seconds when Bush jocularly punched Putin on the shoulder, remarking: "Why, one morning in Africa I shot an elephant in my pyjamas; how he got in my pyjamas I'll never know!"
With this being translated as: "The President personally executed an elephant that stole his night attire", Putin and his advisers visibly struggled to make sense of what was deemed a parable on international relations.
Failing to evoke even a smile, Bush, oblivious to the bewilderment, then continued, raising a coffee cup and shouting: "Here's to our wives and girlfriends - may they never meet!
"Hey Vlad, I can tell you're a man with an open mind - I can feel the breeze from here.
"I've got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it. You're heading for a breakdown. Why don't you pull yourself to pieces?
"Well, those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others."
By then Putin's translators and advisers had established that their American guest was quoting Groucho's lines from Marx Brothers' films.
When Putin asked why, the President explained that he had been told the Russian leader was a Marxist at heart.
"So am I," confessed Bush, "I love them, you don't hear much of them these days, are they still working?
"They were ahead of their time you know. Their movies were real avant gardeners; they were black and white, that's real clever you know because the world is actually in lots of colours."
"I believe you'll find that my loyalty is to Karl Marx," Putin replied.
"Karl? The sharp-dresser who sang a bit," countered Bush, "Nope, never took to him."
"You're thinking of Zeppo," said Putin.
"Zeppo? Don't smoke but great lighters," enthused Bush. "American-made you know. Bradford PA. They won the Vietnam war in Korea against the Germans. Kerry told me that, or was it Kermit? Can't remember, but it's true."
After Bush declined the invitation to move the subject on to Human Rights, claiming he had never "seen it" but he loved Animal Crackers, especially "when they switch all those paintings around, so much it makes my head spin", the meeting was brought to a halt.
Advisers agreed that a press release would be issued, stating that both leaders had a frank discussion and were optimistic they could, between them, develop a new era of honesty and openness in US-Russia relations.