American Evita author said he has "no axe to grind," then smeared Clintons on TV; Is he a credible expert on the Clintons?
Research ››› ››› DUNCAN BLACK & ANDREW SEIFTER
Christopher Andersen, author of partisan books Bill and Hillary: The Marriage (Best Sellers, 1999) and George and Laura: Portrait of an American Marriage (William Morrow, 2002), has been making the rounds in recent weeks on shows such as CBS's The Early Show; NBC's Today; MSNBC's Scarborough Country; and FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes to promote his newest book, American Evita: Hillary Clinton's Path to Power (William Morrow, 2004). In light of his numerous appearances on network and cable television -- and the likely prominence of former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) -- at the Democratic National Convention, Media Matters for America anticipates some Andersen sightings in media coverage of the event. But should we listen to anything he has to say about the Clintons?
FOX News Channel co-host Sean Hannity clearly thinks so. On the July 13 edition of Hannity & Colmes, he praised his guest's book: "Christopher [Andersen], it is a great book, by the way. And it's a great read. I learned more reading your book than I think -- you bring a new perspective to it. You really do. So there is a level of journalism here and objectivity."
On that same show, Andersen claimed that American Evita is "utterly objective" and that he has no "axe to grind" or "agenda"; Andersen added that he has a "unique, nonpartisan perspective" on Senator Clinton. Although even the book's title could be considered derogatory, Andersen again defended his objectivity: "I came up with that title after I did the research for the book." During a July 8 appearance on The Early Show, Andersen proclaimed: "I'm not part of any conspiracy, left or right."
Andersen's track record belies his claims of objectivity. His previous book about the Clintons, Bill and Hillary: The Marriage, published in 1999, presented an assortment of unverified allegations from anonymous sources (purportedly friends of the couple and White House staff) as well as from discredited sources. As Jake Tapper noted in his Salon.com review of the book, Andersen included apparently fabricated details about scenarios involving no witnesses who would have talked to Andersen. He "dishes like a catty high school girl holding forth in the lunchroom, with little corroborating evidence for his claims, implied or otherwise," wrote Tapper.
Andersen's latest effort is no different, trading in unsourced speculation and assertions presented as fact that, like his prior book on the Clintons, are devoid of supporting evidence. The endnotes section of the book could be a parody, resembling a computer-generated list of names and publications in monolithic blocks of text with no reference to particular information Andersen is purporting to substantiate. In the introduction to the notes section, Andersen acknowledges sources "who wish to remain anonymous," including "friends, schoolmates, neighbors, colleagues, advisers"; absent is any indication of whose friends, schoolmates, etc., they are.
Andersen also recognizes and lists "[t]he archives and oral history collections of numerous institutions," implying that he availed himself of the tools of a scholar; yet he offers no indication of what he actually found there. Among the sources Andersen appears to rely on most is Dick Morris -- cited more than 15 times. Morris's own book on Senator Clinton, Rewriting History, is rife with contradictions, factual inaccuracies, and whole-cloth fabrications, as Media Matters for America documented in an analysis of the book.
Andersen's media appearances promoting American Evita were exercises in rumor-mongering, presumably designed to whet viewer appetites for the book's equally salacious claims. Here are a few of them:
CLAIM: The role of the Clintons in the 2004 presidential election and "The Plan."
"[A]lthough there is a -- a need on the part of the Clintons to look as if they back this ticket, there is no way they can really want John Kerry to win, because that would mean she would be stymied for the next eight years in her presidential quest." [The Early Show]
The Clintons "don't want Kerry to win," adding, "they have to give that appearance, but their fingers are crossed behind their backs because -- because, frankly, they want to make that run in 2008." [Hannity & Colmes]
Andersen's remark relates to his claims in American Evita about "the plan" -- an alleged prearranged strategy to get both Clintons elected president, which was supposedly hatched prior to Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign and which he said "we now see" "unfolding." [Hannity & Colmes]
Andersen stated that in this "arrangement," Hillary Clinton "was co-president for eight years" with "influence not only on domestic policy but on foreign policy in the White House"; "[I]f Hillary's elected president in 2008 or 2012," Bill Clinton "certainly would serve as co-president." [The Early Show]
Andersen provides no evidence in American Evita that such a plan ever existed.
Hillary Clinton was considered as Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) vice-presidential running mate: "Bill Clinton pushed this. Bill Clinton told his wife, 'Look, this is your best chance.'" [The Early Show]
At the time of his own campaign for the presidency, Bill Clinton "was actively pushing to get Hillary on that ticket" as his running mate. [Hannity & Colmes]
CLAIM: Hillary's ambitions and her "secret police."
"Hillary built up a secret police for the purposes of conducting a systematic campaign to intimidate, frighten, threaten, discredit and punish innocent Americans whose only misdeed is their desire to tell the truth." [From American Evita, as quoted on The Early Show by host Hannah Storm]
"[S]taff members" and "private investigators were hired to go after some of these people that accused Bill of various misdeeds." [The Early Show]
Andersen provided no evidence for any of these assertions.
CLAIM: Hillary Clinton and Vince Foster were having an affair.
Hillary Clinton and former deputy White House counsel Vince Foster "had a relationship, they were in love"; "because of the intimate nature of eyewitness accounts, and then Hillary spending time with him," "I would say" they had an affair [Hannity & Colmes].
Andersen provided no sourcing for this assertion.
CLAIM: Hillary Clinton's popularity soared in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
"Monica Lewinsky was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary"; Senator Clinton is "a person who really is willing to bend the rules a few too many times. ... [H]er moral compass is askew." [Hannity & Colmes]. In a July 14 Scarborough Country appearance, Andersen remarked that Clinton "soared in the polls when she was perceived as the wronged woman during the Lewinsky [scandal] -- Monica Lewinsky made her political career."
CLAIM: Chelsea's health.
Hannity & Colmes co-host Alan Colmes challenged Andersen's objectivity: "[W]hat's the good part about Hillary Clinton to come out of this book?" Andersen responded, "Well, I mean, I think she's a good parent." But even this element of praise contradicted past attacks Andersen has leveled against Clinton.
In Bill and Hillary, Andersen asserted that the Clintons would force their daughter, Chelsea, to participate in role-playing exercises in which "Bill and Hillary peppered Chelsea with questions and insults until she was numb." Andersen also wrote that on May 19, 1998, Chelsea "collapsed with severe stomach pains," which Andersen claimed "were brought on by stress" resulting from her parents' strained relationship and which he claimed the White House covered up in a press release that said the following: "Chelsea was simply suffering from the flu."
Andersen doesn't provide a source for the charge that Chelsea Clinton was taken to the hospital multiple times for "stress-induced stomach pains"; further, there are no contemporaneous news accounts of her being taken to the hospital, except for the incident on May 19.
On the August 3, 1999, edition of NBC's Today show, Andersen claimed that "when the Lewinsky scandal broke, of course, she was rushed to the hospital in Stanford several times, suffering from anxiety attacks."
On the August 11, 1999, edition of FOX News Channel's The Crier Report, Andersen stated, "Now Chelsea was sent to the Stanford Hospital four times, stomach -- anxiety-induced stomach cramps. The first time the White House said, 'Oh, it's the flu,' then they stopped trying to explain it the other three times." Media Matters for America's search of White House briefings transcripts over that period reveals that, at least in those sessions, no reporter questioned the White House about "the other three times" the hospital visits allegedly occurred.