Omitting relevant fact, Kornblut cast doubt on Clinton's candor regarding announcement

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

On the January 22 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Washington Post staff writer Anne E. Kornblut omitted a relevant fact while purporting to "leave it up to" others to reach their own conclusions about whether Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) had moved up her presidential exploratory announcement to January 20 in response to Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) announcement four days earlier. Kornblut noted that Clinton aides had once considered announcing her candidacy in February or March, but Kornblut did not note that, weeks before Obama announced, several news accounts, including a December 28 article in the Post, reported that Clinton was "expected" to announce in January.

From the January 22 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

CHRIS MATTHEWS (host): Well let's go around the table literally and figuratively with Anne Kornblut. Is it entirely credible or checkable that Hillary Clinton did, in fact, plan all along to announce this Saturday? It had nothing to do with the fact that it looked like Barack Obama got the jump on her Tuesday?

KORNBLUT: Well, I mean it's certainly possible that in her own mind she was always planning on announcing on Saturday, but I can tell you other advisers of hers and people who consulted with her beforehand had considered it a moving target. About a year ago, they were talking about doing it as late as she wanted. They reminded you that her husband didn't get into the race until late in the game in '92. And for awhile there, they'd been talking about February, March. So, I mean, it's conceivable that she'd always intended this, but I'll leave it up to you.

Although Kornblut said that she would "leave it up to you" to judge Clinton and her staff's truthfulness -- which Kornblut said was "not provable" -- on whether the timing of Clinton's announcement had changed, the factual record she recited was incomplete in a key respect. Kornblut said that "[a]bout a year ago," Clinton aides "were talking about doing it as late as she wanted," and that "for awhile there, they'd been talking about February [or] March." But Kornblut did not mention that several news articles preceding Obama's announcement reported that Clinton planned to announce in January, as Media Matters for America has noted. For example, a December 28 Washington Post article reported that Clinton, as well as other possible candidates such as Obama, "are expected to announce their candidacies in January."

After Kornblut's comments, Matthews asked Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman to be "blunt" about whether it is "a fair question to ask whether she's telling the truth there, since she always intended to do this, or is it in fact an early indicator of a lack of candor" from Clinton and her aides. Fineman agreed that "it's a fair question," but that "it's possible actually that [the announcement] was planned for this time." Matthews responded, "I think the referee has it slightly for the argument that she didn't have it planned," and then, MSNBC political analyst Mike Barnicle stated that, "no, she was pushed into it by the Obama camp." "OK," Matthews said. "[S]plit decision for those who believed that it was not planned, that this was responsive."

In addition, on the January 22 broadcast of the NBC Nightly News, managing editor and anchor Brian Williams, in an interview with Clinton, asserted as fact that "[t]his is not exactly how or when you planned to announce this," and asked, "How else are you going to have to adjust to counter the presence of this Obama campaign, which is a surprise?" Matthews played this clip to introduce the discussion about Clinton with Kornblut, Fineman, and Barnicle.

Media Matters for America has documented several recent instances in which media figures have suggested that Clinton or her aides have been less than truthful:

  • Media figures wrongly suggested that Clinton postponed a January 16 press conference only after Obama announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee. But reporters said they had been told the day before the scheduled press conference that it would be postponed because one of the participants, Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), had gotten sick.
  • In a January 16 post on the New York Times political weblog The Caucus, Kornblut (then a Times reporter) baselessly speculated that Clinton may have been faking a phone call to avoid answering questions about Obama's announcement that he had formed an exploratory committee.
  • As Media Matters noted, Chuck Todd, editor-in-chief of National Journal's The Hotline, asserted that aides to Clinton would "never admit" what "certainly seems" to be the truth -- that her campaign accelerated the timing of her announcement in "reaction" to that of Obama four days earlier, "and the frenzy that is surrounding Obama."
  • In a January 23 Washington Post, article, Kornblut accused Clinton of "hedg[ing] on her favorite movie." According to Kornblut, Clinton said that "as a child, she had loved The Wizard of Oz, only to discover Casablanca in college and law school, watching it so often that she memorized the lines. (Her passion for the Meryl Streep-Robert Redford classic Out of Africa came later, she said.) But," Kornblut wrote, Clinton "was clear about her own conviction that she can become president."
  • Numerous media conservatives have touted a discredited post on the Media Research Center's NewsBusters blog to baselessly claim that Clinton recorded her announcement video launching her presidential bid months prior to actually announcing. Even though the post was later updated to add that a reporter "whom I respect informs me that video was produced last week in DC," hosts such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity touted the NewsBusters post to support the claim.

From the January 22 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the timing.

HOWARD WOLFSON (Clinton adviser): Sure.

MATTHEWS: This is right after Obama, right before the State of the Union. Brilliant. You dominated the Sunday newspapers, you took over Sunday television, and you sort of set the agenda for the president this week by being the major Democratic voice.

WOLFSON: Well, that was part of the plan, frankly, not the part regarding Senator Obama. We obviously didn't know when he would be announcing. And we had planned to announce on this day long before. We thought it was very important to announce right before the State of the Union. We think it's a particular time in the country where Americans are focusing on the president, the office of the presidency, the enormous challenges facing our country, and we think when people think about who can be the best president, the answer they're going to come to is Hillary Clinton. So we wanted to do it now. We like the contrast. We like getting the media that we're getting around this time, and it was a date that worked well for us.

MATTHEWS: So it was serendipitous that you big-footed Obama this week? Serendipitous. It was coincidental. You just knocked this guy right out of the box. He was going to own the weekend. You guys showed up, took it away from him on Saturday. By Sunday morning you owned the game. And that was serendipity? It just turned out that way? You had planned to do this all along?

WOLFSON: Well, you've seen our website, I know. That's not the kind of website that you can build out in 24 hours. I mean, this was something that we had been working on for a while. Senator Clinton tasked us with coming up with the best date for her announcement and the best possible way to announce at the same time that she was coming to her conclusion about whether she should announce. And once she decided to do it, this was the date.

MATTHEWS: She's in it to run now. There's none of this pretend exploratory. She's decided to run for president?

WOLFSON: As she has said, she is in it, and she's in it to win.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. Hillary Clinton's announcement that she is in fact running for president comes just days after Barack Obama's announcement and days, of course, before the State of the Union, which is tomorrow night. NBC's Brian Williams asked Senator Clinton about the timing of her announcement.

[begin video clip]

WILLIAMS: Senator, first of all, thank you for doing this. This is not exactly how or when you planned to announce this. How else are you going to have to adjust to counter the presence of this Obama campaign, which is a surprise?

CLINTON: Well, you know, Brian, this is exactly how I intended to do this. Once I made up my mind that I was going to contest for the presidential nomination of my party, I wanted to do it on the Web. I wanted to do it before the president's State of the Union because I wanted to draw the contrast between what we've seen over the last six years and the kind of leadership and experience that I would bring to the office.

WILLIAMS: So you had always planned to announce before the president's State of the Union address?

CLINTON: That was our plan, yes.

[end video clip]

MATTHEWS: You can see more of Brian's interview with Senator Clinton on the NBC Nightly News, of course.

We're joined now by the Hardballers, Washington Post's Anne Kornblut, new of The Washington Post. And she's covering Hillary. And Newsweek's Howard Fineman, of course, and MSNBC's Mike Barnicle.

Well, let's go around the table literally and figuratively with Anne Kornblut. Is it entirely credible or checkable that Hillary Clinton did in fact plan all along to announce this Saturday? It had nothing to do with the fact that it looked like Barack Obama got the jump on her Tuesday?

KORNBLUT: Well, I mean, it's certainly possible that in her own mind she was always planning on announcing on Saturday, but I can tell you other advisers of hers and people who consulted with her beforehand had considered it a moving target.

About a year ago, they were talking about doing it as late as she wanted. They reminded you that her husband didn't get into the race until late in the game in '92. And for awhile there, they'd been talking about February, March. So, I mean, it's conceivable that she'd always intended this, but I'll leave it up to you.

MATTHEWS: But not provable or checkable, ultimately.

KORNBLUT: Not provable.

MATTHEWS: Howard, is it a fair question to ask whether she's telling the truth there? That she always intended to do this, or is it in fact an early indicator of a lack of candor? Let's be blunt.

FINEMAN: Well, I think it's a fair question. I think it was somewhat of a moving target. They might have wanted to do it now, but let's put it this way. Any doubts they had about when they were going to do it were taken away by Obama.

MATTHEWS: You're subsuming two options there. One is she planned it and one she didn't. Which is it?

FINEMAN: Yeah, I think it's possible actually that it was planned for this time. But it had the right effect because I know from personal experience, I just got a phone call from Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, because I had said some things over the weekend about how the Daleys really don't like the Clintons all that much. He wanted me to know that the Daleys were supporting Barack Obama, but not because they had any issues with the Clintons, which I take to mean they know how formidable she is.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I would accept that.

FINEMAN: And that was underscored by her performance over the weekend.

MATTHEWS: And that assumes that people behave politically.

FINEMAN: That does assume that, the Daleys and the Clintons, that they behave politically.

MATTHEWS: Mike Barnicle, Hillary Clinton -- did she have a plan for Saturday or not? We'll move on after that. Your verdict now. It's now in the boxing thing. I think the referees -- the referee has it slightly for the argument that she didn't have it planned. I've got another judge that isn't ready to judge.

BARNICLE: All right, well Johnny Eddie (ph) is dropping the ringside microphone now and I would say, no, she was pushed into it by the Obama camp.

MATTHEWS: OK, split decision for those who believed that it was not planned, that this was responsive.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Anne Kornblut
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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