Three recent or upcoming books highlight the way an anti-Clinton cottage industry is trying to manipulate media vulnerabilities to smear Hillary and Bill Clinton.
This summer will see the publication of Daniel Halper's Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, Edward Klein's Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, and Ronald Kessler's The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of Presidents. Rush Limbaugh discussed all three books one after the other on July 22, commenting, "Do we really want to hand the country over to these people?"
While these books are catnip for Limbaugh and Fox News, all three should give credible media outlets reason to pause before amplifying their anecdotes.
Weekly Standard online editor Daniel Halper is currently making the media rounds to promote Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, which was published July 22 and seeks to "expose" the inner workings of the Clintons' "political machine" and their "unquenchable thirst for wealth and power." He has already appeared for interviews on his publisher's corporate cousin Fox News (on The Kelly File and Fox & Friends) to promote the book, which has been deemed the "'must buy' book of the summer" by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt and recommended by Karl Rove as the "next summer read."
Halper's book characterizes the Clintons as "dueling CEOs" whose primary goal is to make the Clinton "brand" profitable and politically powerful. He largely focuses on the well-trod period starting with Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign up to the present, with flashbacks to earlier periods in the Clintons' lives. Clinton, Inc.'s extended business metaphor barely holds together what is essentially a series of unrelated anecdotes and tired conservative tropes (as one critic points out, a right-wing author describing the Clintons as "calculating" does not make for a "groundbreaking revelation"). Many of his questionable anecdotes are provided anonymously -- "out of fear of retribution or attack from ruthless Clinton aides," according to Halper.
For example, Halper promotes a confusing, poorly-sourced, anonymous account to accuse former President Clinton of attempted rape. Halper claims he received exclusive access to never-before-seen documents about the Clintons collected by unnamed "investigators, attorneys, and other Lewinsky advisors" in the 1990s. Halper says that one of "the more promising and detailed nuggets" collected by the Lewinsky team is an allegation that Bill Clinton attempted to assault an unnamed woman near San Francisco in the 1970s. But the allegation does not come from the woman herself, who Halper says never pressed charges. It's based on claims from a "friend" of the woman, who is also unnamed. Halper's third-hand account doesn't explain when or how the unnamed friend became aware of the allegation, whether they had ever relayed the story to anyone other than a Lewinsky representative decades after the alleged crime, or why the Lewinsky team didn't follow up on the story. Nor does he indicate that he made any effort whatsoever to follow up on the claim himself -- even to determine whether the woman exists.
In another instance, Halper seeks to make the case that something happened to Hillary Clinton other than what her doctors told the public in December 2012 -- that she took a fall as the result of severe dehydration from a stomach bug, suffered a concussion, and was hospitalized for a blood clot in the brain, causing her to delay testifying to Congress about the Benghazi terrorist attacks. First, Halper baselessly posits that Clinton may have hit her head after falling down drunk. Invoking a "rumor" from "bloggers and websites" that Clinton drinks heavily, Halper points to "one well-known Clinton hater" for the claim the injury was the result of drinking -- citing no names. He then offers a contrary interpretation, writing that Clinton may have had a stroke but covered it up. He attributes this, variously, to "a number of reporters," "some on the right," "others," "reporters," and "one veteran reporter" -- not one of them named. Amid this discussion he concedes that "the revelation" may be untrue after all.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has attempted to scandalize the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation in two consecutive columns, even as colleague Nicholas Kristof prepares to participate in the Clintons' charitable events for the sixth straight year.
Dowd's attacks on the Clinton Foundation are the latest salvo in her decades-long anti-Clinton campaign.
In her July 19 column, Dowd baselessly criticized the "foundation dishabille" as part of the "percussive drama" that supposedly surrounds the Clintons. Dowd devoted her July 12 column to lashing out at Chelsea Clinton for giving paid speeches and donating the fees to the Clinton Foundation, an activity which Dowd described as somehow "unseemly."
The Clinton Foundation's website says its mission is "to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment." But Dowd baselessly smeared the Foundation as a phony organization intended solely to benefit the Clinton family, claiming that Chelsea Clinton was "joining her parents in cashing in to help feed the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc." by giving her speaking fees to the Clinton Foundation rather than donating the proceeds to "some independent charity not designed to burnish the Clinton name as her mother ramps up to return to the White House and as she herself drops a handkerchief about getting into politics."
Dowd's criticism raises questions about The New York Times' position on the Foundation given Dowd colleague Nicholas Kristof's involvement in Clinton charitable events through the Clinton Global Initiative. Founded by President Clinton in 2005 and merged into the broader Clinton Foundation last year, CGI brings together global leaders from the public, nonprofit, and private sectors to help solve pressing international issues.
Kristof has participated in CGI's annual meeting in each of the last five years, either by delivering remarks or moderating panels. In a 2010 "CGI Stories" video, Kristof praised the group, saying, "There has been a bit of a change in how global poverty and global health is perceived and I think what's happening at CGI both reflects that and also helps shape it."
In an interview with Media Matters, Kristof said CGI events give him "a chance to meet people who converge from around the world" that are focused on issues that interest him, such as global women's rights, development, and education. He said that he plans to attend the group's annual meeting in September if he is invited. He declined to comment on Dowd's work.
The Times also declined to comment on the tension between Dowd's campaign to scandalize the foundation and Kristof's continued relationship with it.
The paper's Ethical Journalism handbook suggests that the paper has not institutionally adopted Dowd's critique. It states that Times journalists "must consult with the standards editor or the deputy editorial page editor" before addressing "groups that might figure in coverage they provide, edit, package or supervise, especially if the setting might suggest a close relationship to the sponsoring group." It also bars them from accepting "invitations to speak where their function is to attract customers to an event primarily intended as profit-making."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that the U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in June, sending the unemployment rate plummeting to its lowest level since September 2008. Economists and business reporters widely praised the report as evidence that the economy is gaining strength.
Here's how CNN.com was reporting the news at 9:35 a.m.:
Here's how MSNBC.com was reporting it:
And here's how FoxNews.com was handling the story:
Earlier today Fox Business host Charles Payne warned on Twitter that the jobs report might be "too good for the stock market." Soon after, the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 17,000 for the first time in history.
This isn't the first time FoxNews.com has minimized positive jobs numbers.
New evidence revealing the full context of Hillary Clinton's comment about the "truly well off" suggests that she was not trying to contrast herself from the ranks of the wealthy, as many in the media previously suggested.
On June 21, The Guardian reported pieces of an interview they had conducted with Clinton during the roll-out of her new memoir, Hard Choices:
America's glaring income inequality is certain to be a central bone of contention in the 2016 presidential election. But with her huge personal wealth, how could Clinton possibly hope to be credible on this issue when people see her as part of the problem, not its solution?
"But they don't see me as part of the problem," she protests, "because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we've done it through dint of hard work," she says, letting off another burst of laughter.
Numerous media outlets jumped on Clinton's comments, suggesting that in her statement "unlike a lot of people who are truly well off" Clinton was saying that she and President Clinton are not "truly well off." At times, media outlets even altered the quote to fit that impression, falsely reporting that Clinton had said they were "not truly well off." For example:
Business Insider: Hillary Clinton Says She Isn't 'Truly Well Off'
Washington Post: Hillary Clinton says she's unlike the 'truly well off'
Fox News: Clinton: I'm not 'truly well off'
As Media Matters' Eric Boehlert noted at the time, while Clinton's comments were somewhat unclear, "at least as good an interpretation of the quote is that Clinton included herself and her husband among the 'truly well off,' but was saying that unlike many of them, they pay ordinary income tax."
Indeed, the full transcript of Clinton's response supports this interpretation. Clinton immediately followed up the comment by noting, "We know how blessed we are." She went on to explain that the Clintons did not grow up rich and that her goal is to "create a level playing field" to ensure opportunity for all. Here's the transcript, posted by The Hill on June 26 (emphasis added):
QUESTION: Domestically, as you mentioned towards the end of the book, one of the key issues is inequality.
QUESTION: Presumably whoever runs in 2016 will be talking a lot about that. It's come up already, but I did want to - it's such a polar - another polarized issue. Can you be the right person, were you to decide to run, to raise an issue like that when - with your own huge personal wealth, which is something that people have already started sniping about? Is it possible to talk about that subject --
QUESTION: -- when people perceive you as part of the problem, not the solution?
CLINTON: But they don't see me as part of the problem because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names, and we have done it through dint of hard work. We know how blessed we are. We were neither of us raised with these kinds of opportunities, and we worked really hard for them. But all one has to do is look at my record going back to my time in college and law school to know not only where my heart is, but where my efforts have been. I want to create a level playing field so that once again, you can look a child in the eye and you can tell them the truth, whether they're born in a wealthy suburb or an inner city or a poor country community; you can point out the realistic possibility that they will have a better life. But here's what they must do: It's that wonderful combination of individual effort, but social support, mobility and opportunity on the other side of the equation. So I'm willing to have that debate with anybody.
Conservatives are trying to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her work in 1975 as a court-appointed attorney for an indigent defendant alleged to have raped a 12-year-old girl, a case she detailed in her memoir a decade ago. As Republican lawyers and the American Bar Association have previously noted, such criticisms undermine the American system of justice.
An alleged ringleader of the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, who is now in U.S. custody, reportedly told other Libyans during the attack that he was responding to an anti-Islam video that had been published on YouTube, demolishing a prominent right-wing media attack.
Conservatives in the media have fixated on Obama administration statements shortly after the attacks suggesting that the video had been a motive for the attackers. Conservatives have alleged that these statements were part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the terror attacks in order to bolster President Obama's re-election campaign.
Abu Khattala told Libyans the night of the attack "that he was moved to attack the diplomatic mission to take revenge for an insult to Islam in an American-made online video," according to The New York Times. From the Times:
What he did in the period just before the attack has remained unclear. But Mr. Abu Khattala told other Libyans in private conversations during the night of the attack that he was moved to attack the diplomatic mission to take revenge for an insult to Islam in an American-made online video.
An earlier demonstration venting anger over the video outside the American Embassy in Cairo had culminated in a breach of its walls, and it dominated Arab news coverage. Mr. Abu Khattala told both fellow Islamist fighters and others that the attack in Benghazi was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.
In an interview days after the attack, he pointedly declined to say whether he believed an offense such as the anti-Islamic video might indeed warrant the destruction of the diplomatic mission or the killing of the ambassador. "From a religious point of view, it is hard to say whether it is good or bad," he said.
The Times article is consistent with media reports from the scene of the attack that suggested the anti-Islam video had been a motive for at least some of the attackers. That video triggered anti-American protests across the Muslim world.
Speakers at a Heritage Foundation panel mocked a Muslim student who pointed out that Muslim Americans were not represented at the forum and stated that conservative rhetoric on Islam is often starkly negative.
On June 17, Heritage held an event to discuss the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The event was led by Andrew McCarthy, a conservative commentator and former federal prosecutor who recently released a book claiming that President Obama's response to the Benghazi attacks constitutes an impeachable offense. Several panelists at the forum have long records of inflammatory rhetoric about Islam.
Dana Milbank detailed the event in his June 16 Washington Post column:
The session, as usual, quickly moved beyond the specifics of the assaults that left four Americans dead to accusations about the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating the Obama administration, President Obama funding jihadists in their quest to destroy the United States, Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton attempting to impose Sharia blasphemy laws on Americans and Al Jazeera America being an organ of "enemy propaganda."
Then Saba Ahmed, an American University law student, stood in the back of the room and asked a question in a soft voice. "We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there's 1.8 billion followers of Islam," she told them. "We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don't see them represented here."
Panelist Brigitte Gabriel of a group called ACT! for America pounced. She said "180 million to 300 million" Muslims are "dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization." She told Ahmed that the "peaceful majority were irrelevant" in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and she drew a Hitler comparison: "Most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and as a result, 60 million died."
"Are you an American?" Gabriel demanded of Ahmed, after accusing her of taking "the limelight" and before informing her that her "political correctness" belongs "in the garbage."
"Where are the others speaking out?" Ahmed was asked. This drew an extended standing ovation from the nearly 150 people in the room, complete with cheers.
The panel's moderator, conservative radio host Chris Plante, grinned and joined in the assault. "Can you tell me who the head of the Muslim peace movement is?" he demanded of Ahmed.
"Yeah," audience members taunted, "yeah."
Ahmed answered quietly, as before. "I guess it's me right now," she said.
Below is video of the exchange recorded from Heritage's livestream of the event. Gabriel's comments begin at 4:15.
A coalition of Islamophobes, birthers, and conspiracy theorists led by a prominent supporter of impeaching President Obama will assemble at the Heritage Foundation this afternoon to discuss the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
The event, titled "Benghazi: The Difference It Makes Is Accountability!" will be co-hosted by the Benghazi Accountability Coalition. In a post at National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy, a conservative commentator and former federal prosecutor, identifies himself as the chairman of that new "volunteer organization."
McCarthy is the author of a new book that seeks to build "the political case" for President Obama's impeachment. The book includes a draft Articles of Impeachment detailing "The Benghazi Fraud." According to McCarthy, the talking points used by former Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice to discuss the terrorist attacks on Sunday morning political talk shows constituted a deliberate effort "to defraud the American people in connection with matters of great public importance, in violation of [President Obama's] duty to execute the laws faithfully and his fiduciary duty to be truthful in his statements to the American people."
At National Review Online, McCarthy promises that today's forum will "feature some speakers with tremendous insights into the relevant issues about the Benghazi Massacre." James Jay Carafano, Heritage's vice present of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, will participate, lending the organization's imprimatur to the proceedings. Here are some of those notables who will appear alongside him:
Earlier this week, Bloomberg View columnist Barry Ritholtz took Art Laffer to task for a piece of economic analysis the former Reagan adviser penned in 2009 that proved drastically wrong. Ritholtz used the column to ask : Why aren't pundits held accountable?
It's an important question, and one that warrants consideration, particularly as unrepentant architects of the Iraq War enter the public sphere to opine on the deteriorating situation in that country.
Following President Obama's speech on the increasing violence in Iraq, Ari Fleischer weighed in on Twitter:
Regardless of what anyone thinks of going into Iraq in 2002, it's a tragedy that the successes of the 2007 surge have been lost & abandoned.-- Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) June 13, 2014
As critics were quick to point out, it's impossible to have a credible discussion about the situation in Iraq without consideration of how we got there in the first place (also, we actually invaded Iraq in 2003). And it's certainly convenient for Fleischer to wave away questions about the initial invasion given that he helped to sell it as President Bush's press secretary.
Here are some quotes from the former Bush flak that Think Progress assembled in 2007, when Fleischer surfaced as a leading voice behind that year's escalation:
"[T]here's no question that if force is used, it will achieve the objective of preserving the peace far faster than the current path that we're on." [2/14/03]
"My point is, the likelihood is much more like Afghanistan, where the people who live right now under a brutal dictator will view America as liberators, not conquerors." [10/11/02]
"There have been contacts between senior members of -- senior Iraqi officials and members of the al Qaeda organization, going back for quite a long time. ...Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development. There are contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda." [1/27/03]
"There is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly. ... And all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes." [3/21/03]
"[N]o, I don't think there's any chance of losing the peace, but it is going to be a battle to continue to win the peace." [5/19/03]
Fleischer has no apology for what he did -- he'd simply prefer not to speak of it.
The role people like Fleischer played in supporting and selling the invasion of Iraq and whether or not they've assessed that role and found their actions wanting are factors media should consider as they report on current efforts by conservatives to pin all the blame for the current state of that country on President Obama.
This need for pundit accountability isn't limited to Iraq. Earlier this month, Fox News hosted Oliver North to criticize President Obama for negotiating with terrorists to release Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. North, of course, is famous for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, in which he facilitated the illegal sale of missiles to Iran in exchange for the release of U.S. prisoners in Lebanon.
Such pundit antics are par for the course at Fox, which hosts Judy Miller to discuss Middle East weapons of mass destruction, Mark Fuhrman to opine on race, and "heckuva job" Michael Brown to talk about disaster relief.
CNN's Crossfire will be hosting David Bossie, the conservative activist whose smears of Hillary Clinton were so dishonest they got him fired from his job as a House Republican aide in the 1990s, to discuss whether Clinton is "ready for the spotlight."
Today, Hillary Clinton released her new biography, Hard Choices. CNN chose Bossie to debate the book and her media tour promoting it from the right on tonight's Crossfire. (Bossie will appear opposite Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden, along with regular co-hosts Newt Gingrich and Stephanie Cutter.)
In 1998, Bossie was forced to resign from his role as top investigator on the House Government and Reform Committee for his alleged role in releasing selectively edited transcripts and video of prison conversations by Clinton confidant Webster Hubbell. The transcripts and video, whose editing was overseen by Bossie, removed exculpatory statements from Hubbell that downplayed alleged wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton at their former law firm.
Bossie's actions drew bipartisan condemnation at the time, with Gingrich, then Speaker of the House, reportedly pressuring Bossie to resign and apologizing to the House Republican Conference for the events. Gingrich told then-House Government and Oversight Committee chair Dan Burton, "I'm embarrassed for you, I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the conference at the circus that went on at your committee."
Before taking a job as a House investigator, Bossie worked for Citizens United, a right-wing group that was devoted to pushing smears about Whitewater and other Clinton pseudoscandals. During the 1992 presidential campaign Bossie worked for another right-wing group that was condemned by then-President George H.W. Bush for "filthy tactics." Bush filed an FEC complaint against their group to distance his campaign from their attacks on the Clintons. His son, George W. Bush, urged the campaign's supporters not to donate to the group.
After leaving Congress Bossie returned to Citizens United, where he has been president since 2001.
Bossie previously appeared on the March 7 and May 20 editions of Crossfire.