In his attack book on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), The Truth About Hillary, Edward Klein quoted an anonymous source claiming that Bill Clinton found out about Hillary Clinton's pregnancy when he read about it in a newspaper. But in a new interview, Klein contradicted that quote. In the process, Klein backed off one of the book's most explosive claims and contradicted the only source for Klein's suggestion that Bill Clinton raped Hillary Clinton.
Klein quoted his anonymous source claiming that, two months after the alleged rape:
"... the phone rings in my office in Wall Street. It's [Bill] Clinton, calling from the Governor's mansion in Little Rock. [...] Anyway, we talk for a while, and then he says, 'By the way, Hillary hasn't been feeling well recently. She went to the doctor, and the doctor called a press conference, and lo and behold, I'm holding the Arkansas Gazette reading that my wife is pregnant.' That's the way he learns that Hillary is pregnant with Chelsea -- in the newspaper."
Media Matters explained that Klein's book gave no indication that he attempted to verify basic elements of this story:
Klein gives no indication that he took basic steps to check out the story -- did he seek out the Arkansas Gazette article to see if it actually happened? To see if it quoted Bill Clinton? To see if the article ran close enough to the date of conception that it was still plausible that Bill Clinton didn't know about the pregnancy? To see if there was any indication of a "press conference"? A quote from the governor's press secretary?
Of course, the answers to these questions, even if consistent with the story Klein's anonymous source told, wouldn't confirm that the source was telling the truth. But if the answers were inconsistent with the source's story, it would destroy his credibility -- not only regarding when Bill Clinton found out about the pregnancy, but regarding the alleged rape, as well. Perhaps that's why Klein apparently didn't check into it: he was afraid of what he'd find.
Klein has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the passage, which comes in the middle of a three-page chapter that also contains the widely denounced suggestion that Bill Clinton raped Hillary Clinton, resulting in the conception of their daughter. As Klein has backed off from that, he has claimed that the "point" of the whole story was not the rape, but that Bill Clinton learned about the pregnancy by reading the newspaper. In a June 20 interview with National Review Online, Klein said:
The point of the story is that my source, who was with the Clintons in Bermuda and quoted Bill's boastful remarks to me, was stunned when Bill phoned him a few months later and told him he just learned of Hillary's pregnancy by reading about it in the newspaper!
But now Klein is backing away from that -- and contradicting his own book and source in the process.
In a June 23 interview with radio host Jim Bohannon that also aired June 26 on C-SPAN2's Book TV, Klein changed his story, saying that Clinton learned about the announcement of the pregnancy by reading the newspaper:
BOHANNON: OK. Is it true that Bill Clinton found out that his wife was expecting by reading the newspaper?
BOHANNON: Tell us a little bit more about that.
KLEIN: Well, let me actually dial back.
BOHANNON: All right.
KLEIN: I suspect that Bill Clinton knew that his wife was pregnant since she was pregnant for three months by the time the announcement came out. But it is true that the announcement was not made in the names of Governor and Mrs. Clinton or Governor and Ms. Rodham as she was then known, but was made in her name alone, and that she made the announcement and Bill Clinton said to my source, whom he was speaking to on the phone, "Guess what, you'll never -- you'll never believe this, but I'm sitting here reading that Hillary has announced she's pregnant." That's how he found out that she --
BOHANNON: The announcement had been made.
KLEIN: The announcement had been made.
What Klein is "dialing back" is the reporting in his own book. In the book, he quotes his anonymous source quoting Bill Clinton saying, "I'm holding the Arkansas Gazette reading that my wife is pregnant" and quotes the source himself saying, "That's the way he learns that Hillary is pregnant with Chelsea -- in the newspaper." Klein is now either contradicting that source or claiming that he misquoted the source in the first place.
That source is also the only source mentioned in Klein's book as a source for the rape suggestion. But, conveniently, Klein now claims he has another source -- though one he didn't personally interview. From the same interview with Bohannon:
BOHANNON: Anything else, [caller]?
CALLER: Sure. I'd like to know how many of the people in the room were sources of his and secondly, I'd like to know if he's written to Matt Drudge [who first promoted the rape allegation] to correct the record, because Matt Drudge is pretty influential and a headline is that Bill Clinton raped Hillary Clinton to conceive Chelsea.
BOHANNON: OK, yeah, we've got the headline. All right, [caller], thank you for your call. So, I would assume that you haven't bothered to contact Matt Drudge?
KLEIN: No, I have not.
BOHANNON: All right, in regard to the sources in the room you had --
KLEIN: One source who spoke to me and another source who was interviewed by somebody else on my behalf.
This is not the first time that Klein has changed his story about whether he had a second source he had for the rape allegation, as Media Matters has previously noted.