Fox News is using anonymously-sourced claims from anti-Clinton authors to inject the rumor that Bill Clinton has a mistress into the media, claims which the network has apparently made no effort to confirm.
Weekly Standard online editor Daniel Halper pushed the rumor in his new book, Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine based solely on anonymous sources, who he claimed told him the former president was engaging in "reckless" behavior with a mistress. On July 21, The New York Post gossip section Page Six reported that conservative author Ronald Kessler will make similar claims in his forthcoming The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of The Presidents, apparently also based on anonymous sources.
While the rest of the media has largely ignored the anonymously-sourced gossip, Fox has been using interviews with Halper to promote these claims. Fox apparently has not attempted to confirm the gossip before promoting it on the network's airwaves.
Fox host Megyn Kelly asked Halper about Kessler's report -- which she noted was "unconfirmed" -- during a July 21 interview promoting Halper's book:
KELLY: On the mistress front there was a report from Breitbart -- it's actually from a new Ron Kessler book -- saying that Bill Clinton allegedly had some affair partner who they call the energizer bunny with whom he is still seeing, unconfirmed. You know, these ladies, whatever. Did you interview any of these?
HALPER: I interviewed some. And I can tell you aides told me that they had to advise Bill Clinton in the 2008 election not to bring his mistress on the campaign trail. So he is still engaging in reckless behavior.
As Media Matters has noted, Kelly's reputation allows her to provide a "veneer of legitimacy" that other Fox hosts cannot offer.
Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck also asked Halper during a July 22 interview how the "talk that there is still a mistress in play here" could affect a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run:
HASSELBECK: There has been some talk that there is still a mistress in play here. If that were to be the case, how would that affect Hillary's run in 2016?
HALPER: I'm sure it is and I'm sure there are more stories and more scandals to emerge. I try to cover as many -- you know, you have to make -- when you cover the Clintons, you have to make hard choices about which scandals and which mistresses to cover. So I have made mine in the book.
Fox and the right-wing media have been largely alone in promoting Halper's book. In fact, the Weekly Standard writer complains in a July 22 Politico Magazine piece that his reporting has been "all but ignored by the mainstream media" and attributes this to media fears of retribution from the Clintons. That conspiracy drew mockery from reporters, with BuzzFeed's Ben Smith tweeting, "Oh stop complaining and break some news" and The Hill's Niall Stanage commenting that the Politico piece was likely a "calculated part of his book's promotion."
It's no wonder that Halper is being met with derision outside of the right-wing bubble. His book is a combination of old news and questionable anecdotes from sources speaking anonymously "out of fear of retribution or attack from ruthless Clinton aides," according to the author.
For example, Halper promotes a confusing, poorly-sourced, anonymous account to accuse former President Clinton of attempting to rape an unnamed woman in the 1970s. The claim from a "friend" of the woman, who apparently related the story to advisers to Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s, who later passed the story to Halper, who published it without attempting to verify any part of it. In another instance, Halper baselessly posits that Clinton's serious December 2012 injury may have been the result of hitting 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 -- again, citing no names.
Similarly, reviewers of Kessler's previous books have criticized the former chief Washington correspondent for the right-wing website Newsmax for peddling trashy gossip. His writing has been described as "speculation-filled," relying on "gossip, innuendo and secondary sources," and "filled with ... Page Six tidbits" (the last coming from his own publisher). Kessler has accused Hillary Clinton of "pathological lying" and pushed the conspiracy theory that she drove Vince Foster to suicide.