In a July 16 article, New York Times reporter Anne E. Kornblut falsely reported that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized her fellow congressional Democrats "for taking on issues that arouse conservatives and turn out Republican voters rather than finding consensus on mainstream subjects."
In a July 16 Web-only article, New York Times reporter Anne E. Kornblut falsely reported that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) criticized her fellow congressional Democrats "for taking on issues that arouse conservatives and turn out Republican voters rather than finding consensus on mainstream subjects." Kornblut quoted Clinton as saying in a July 15 speech, "We do things that are controversial. We do things that try to inflame their base. ... We are wasting time." But while Kornblut construed the "we" in these statements as a reference to Democrats, as is clear from an audio recording of the speech, Clinton was actually referring to the Republican-led Congress. Despite the attention the falsehood drew on several blogs (Eschaton, Americablog, Daily Kos), the Times has yet to run a correction.
Notwithstanding the clear falsehood, Internet gossip Matt Drudge trumpeted the article and the purported angry response by Democratic activists, using the headline ACTIVISTS RAGE: Hillary Says Democrats Are 'Wasting Time'... to link to democraticunderground.com.
This article is the second to contain a flaw undermining its central premise since the Times assigned Kornblut to regularly cover Clinton's 2006 Senate campaign. In an April 16 article, as Media Matters for America wrote at the time, Kornblut equated "conservative activist" Thomas D. Kuiper's book of Clinton quotations with other collections of quotes from the likes of President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, without noting a key distinction: No one has questioned the accuracy of the quotes attributed to Bush and Rumsfeld, which appear in official transcripts of their public appearances. The Times subsequently ran an "Editor's Note," acknowledging several flaws in the article.
In the July 16 article, headlined "Clinton, in Arkansas, Says Democrats Are 'Wasting Time,' " Kornblut falsely reported that Clinton had criticized her Democratic colleagues for "taking on issues that arouse conservatives," such as gay marriage:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, returning to her red-state ties, chastised Democrats Saturday for taking on issues that arouse conservatives and turn out Republican voters rather than finding consensus on mainstream subjects.
Without mentioning specific subjects like gay marriage, Mrs. Clinton said: "We do things that are controversial. We do things that try to inflame their base."
"We are wasting time," the senator told a group of Democratic women here, on part of a two-day swing through a state that could provide an alternate hub to New York if she starts a national political campaign.
In fact, Clinton did not say that the Democrats are "wasting time," but rather that the Republicans in charge of Congress are doing so by focusing on "controversial ... things that try to inflame their base so they can turn people out and vote for their candidates." Following is the relevant passage from her July 15 speech before the Arkansas Federation of Democratic Women:
CLINTON: You know, if you ask yourself, well, if -- with all these problems -- and we've got a solution sitting out there -- why can't we move in the right direction? And it really comes down to a difference in values and philosophy. You know, the nine women Democratic senators -- anybody see us on Larry King (inaudible)? Well, then you know that we put out what we call our "Checklist for Change." I don't know about you, but I am a list maker. I guess it's like a part of DNA for women. I make lists of my lists. And so, we were talking one day and we were saying, you know, we all -- each individual -- we have all of this legislation, we can't get it on the floor of the Senate. We can't get a vote on it because the Republican majority wants to vote on other things.
So, we pulled all of our best ideas together. Wouldn't this be a good agenda for America? Safeguard America's pensions; keep good jobs for Americans; make college affordable for all; protect America and our military families; prepare for future disasters; make America energy independent; make small business and healthcare affordable; invest in life saving science; and protect our air, land, and water. You know, [Sen.] Blanche Lincoln [D-AK] has a bill to make healthcare affordable for small business. I have a bill I was talking to you about with respect to energy independence. We have legislation sitting in the Senate to address these problems.
But with a Republican majority, that's not their priority. So, we do other things. You know, we do things that are controversial. We do things that try to inflame their base so they can turn people out and vote for their candidates. I think we are wasting time. We are wasting lives. We need to get back to making America work again, in a bipartisan, nonpartisan way.
While Kornblut misreported the passage as critical of Democrats, other news outlets accurately reported that Clinton had directed her ire at Republicans in the speech. For instance, Benton Daily Record staff writer Tracy M. Neil noted in a July 16 article that Clinton had "criticized Congressional Republicans for spending time on issues to inflame 'their base' instead of important issues facing the country." Further, in his July 15 Associated Press article on Clinton's visit to Arkansas, AP staff writer Marcus Kabel noted that she had "lambasted Republicans on many issues" before the Arkansas audience.