As Eric noted earlier, much of the media has been "childishly obsessed with pushing the 'soap opera' angle of the story" that Hillary Clinton may be the next Secretary of State. Nowhere has this obsession been more clear than on MSNBC.
On Hardball tonight, Chris Matthews suggested that a Clinton spokesperson had said that Clinton would only take the job (which may or may not have been offered) if she got help retiring her campaign debt:
"I'm looking at the New York Times today ... here's Philippe Reines, who is Senator Clinton's press secretary saying that one the concerns they have from their end is they want to pay off $7.6 million in campaign debts. They also want to pay the money back that Hillary Clinton leant her campaign as a precondition to getting this job. That's being done in public."
But, as with most things Matthews says about Clinton, this is nonsense. The Times didn't report that Reines set any such "precondition" on the job -- not even close. Here's what the New York Times actually reported:
One complication that Mrs. Clinton will face if she becomes secretary of state is the mountain of campaign debt leftover from her presidential run.
Mrs. Clinton has $7.6 million in outstanding bills from the campaign, Mr. Reines said, not including personal loans she made to her campaign.
That is the entire reference to Reines talking about campaign debt -- and it says nothing like what Matthews claimed it said. (The article contained only one other reference to Reines: "Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, declined to comment, referring questions to the Obama transition team.")
UPDATE: In fact, Matthews' claim that Clinton wants the money she leant her campaign to be repaid not only is not true, it cannot be true. Clinton's campaign cannot repay the money she leant it; the deadline for doing so has past. As Politico reported in August:
Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who once deducted $6 on their taxes for donating three pairs of his underwear, plan to take a $13-million hit to their personal bank account by forfeiting loans she made to her failed presidential campaign.
The campaign will allow to expire a mid-September deadline for paying them back, sources close to the campaign told Politico, at which point they will automatically be recategorized as contributions, confirming a decision by Clinton to forego repayment that many had expected her to make.
So Matthews not only made up a quote he attributed to Clinton's spokesperson, he made up a quote that couldn't possibly be true.