Wash. Post wrongly cast familiar portraits in new Clinton bios as "fresh"


In a May 25 Washington Post article, "Books Paint Critical Portraits of Clinton," staff writers Peter Baker and John Solomon asserted that "[t]wo new books on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York" -- A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton, by Carl Bernstein (Knopf, June 2007) and Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. (Little, Brown, and Co., June 2007) -- "offer fresh and often critical portraits of the Democratic presidential candidate." The article continued: "The books portray her as alternately brilliant and controlling, ambitious and victimized," and as a woman, who "pursued her policy and political goals with methodical drive." Far from being "fresh," the "portraits" the two books paint of Clinton -- as captured by the descriptors Baker and Solomon used, "brilliant and controlling, ambitious and victimized," demonstrating "methodical drive" -- have been used repeatedly in the past to describe Clinton.

A Media Matters for America search of the Nexis "News, all" database for (Hillary w/5 Clinton) w/50 (controlling or ambitious or victimized or methodical) yielded hundreds of examples of Clinton being described with these adjectives, often referring to previous books about Clinton:


  • An April 14 post on The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer's Openers weblog asserted that "Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is dogged by her reputation as a controlling and scripted candidate."
  • In her October 11, 2006, New York Times column (subscription required), Maureen Dowd described Clinton as a "controlling blonde[]."
  • An April 1, 2006, article in the British Birmingham Post quoted Dowd as saying during an interview with the paper that "[t]he whole Monica [Lewinsky] thing turned" Clinton "into a victim. ... Hillary was seen as very controlling, one of those women that just keep coming at you until you kinda wanna yell 'STOP!' and hit her over the head with a piece of two by four."
  • Similarly, in the New York Post's December 14, 2005, "Page Six" column, the "Endquote" featured Dowd asserting, during an appearance on ABC's The View, that "If there had been no Monica Lewinsky, there would have been no Sen. [Hillary] Clinton. She had to run as a victim because she was seen as so controlling."
  • The July 2005 publication of Vanity Fair featured an excerpt of Ed Klein's book, The Truth About Hillary (Sentinel, June 2005), which claimed that during "a series of focus groups made up of suburban women," when "[a]sked what they thought of Hillary Clinton, the suburban women said," among other things, that Clinton was "[v]ery controlling."
  • In a January 3, 2003, article, The Mercury (Hobart, Australia), a Rupert Murdoch owned-News Corporation publication, reported that "[c]ritics have described Hillary Clinton as paranoid, egotistical, heartless, selfish, controlling, and power hungry."
  • In a February 25, 2001, article about Michael Tomasky's book, Hillary's Turn (Free Press, February 2001), The New York Times noted that, "[i]n free-spirited discussions, the book reports, many women criticized Mrs. Clinton for being 'threatening and unwomanly' and 'ruthless and greedy for power.' One woman called her 'very controlling'; another called her 'self-serving.' "
  • During an American Enterprise Institute-sponsored panel discussion on July 1, 2000, then-Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter John Brummett asserted that "Hillary Clinton is presumptuous and take-charge to the point of being controlling."


  • Writing about Clinton's position on the Iraq war in the February 12 Slate.com "Fighting Words" column, Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens wrote that "[a]t stake ... is not just the credibility of an ambitious New York senator who wants to be the next president Clinton. At stake, rather, is the integrity of the last president Clinton and of those in his administration who concluded that co-existence with Saddam Hussein was neither desirable nor possible."
  • In a New Republic article from the February 5 edition of the magazine, senior editor Michelle Cottle suggested Clinton is "an ambitious, hard-charging girl."
  • In her January 27 nationally syndicated column, Marie Cocco asserted that the "dead-ahead focus" Clinton "maintained during the chaotic and painful years of her husband's presidency reinforced the image of Clinton as ambitious and icy."
  • In her January 26 column, Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley wrote of the "historical value" and "great lesson for girls in watching a smart ambitious woman chart her path just like almost every successful man has since time, as we know it, began."
  • A January 21 New York Daily News article by staff writer Tina Moore stated: "Depending on your politics, Hillary Rodham Clinton is either direct, ambitious and determined or a pushy, big-government, big-mouthed liberal."
  • A January 15 PR Week article by editorial assistant Lisa LaMotta described Clinton as a "strong wom[a]n" who is "capable and ambitious."
  • In a January 7 op-ed published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Steve Barrett asserted that "Bill and Hillary Clinton [are] two of the most self-obsessed, ravenously ambitious politicians Earth has produced."
  • In his January 7 column, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg stated "that part of the reason Bill Clinton is so excessively hated by the right is due to the fact that he has a smart, ambitious, active wife. In other words, the scary kind."
  • In a January 21 New York Times "news analysis," Patrick Healy claimed that Clinton "will have to show people that she is not the person her critics describe: radically liberal, ruthlessly ambitious, or ethically compromised."
  • In a January 1 editorial, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer described Clinton as "[c]ontroversial," "[f]ormidable," and "[a]mbitious."


  • In an October 29, 2006, review of Gil Troy's Hillary Rodham Clinton: Polarizing First Lady (University Press of Kansas, October 2006) the Chicago Sun-Times stated that Troy claimed in his book that "[i]t was pity, not respect ... that redeemed" Clinton because "[e]veryone could relate to a woman victimized by a tomcatting husband."
  • In a June 15, 2003, review of Clinton's autobiography, Living History (Simon & Schuster, June 2003), The Washington Post similarly stated that "Hillary Clinton emerged from the scandals attendant to her husband's amatory misadventures without a visible scar" partially due to "the astute way in which she presented herself to" the "public, part victimized woman and part devotedly loyal wife." The review went on to state "[t]hough she does not represent this in her book as a deliberate strategy, surely it was just that, and it paid off handsomely in the senatorial race of 2000."
  • Likewise, The Journal News of Westchester County, New York, in a June 5, 2003, article on the response to Living History, reported that "[c]onservatives ... were already predicting ... that the book would prove to be a key element in the long-range plan to secure the 2008 presidential nomination" and asserted that the book "rekindled the image of Hillary Clinton as the loyal-but-victimized wife -- an image that has previously boosted Clinton's popularity ratings.


  • In his February 16 nationally syndicated column, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne asked whether Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) had "the potential to trump Hillary Clinton's money, organization and methodical planning."
  • Nationally syndicated columnist Dale McFeatters wrote in his January 22 column that "Clinton proved to be a methodical, disciplined politician, fearsome fund-raiser and effective senator."
  • During the December 4, 2006, edition of ABC's Good Morning America, journalist Ron Fournier described Clinton as being "someone who will really take her time with this decision, really be very methodical along the way if she takes every step on that path."
  • In his September 25, 2006, nationally syndicated column, the Post's Charles Krauthammer described Clinton as the "methodical Methodist."
  • Newsweek claimed in a December 12, 2005, article that, after "enter[ing] the Senate in 2001 with three strikes against her -- she was a woman, a Democrat and a Clinton," Clinton "immediately began a methodical campaign to undo her image as a dovish liberal with no interest in military affairs."
  • During the February 20, 2005, edition of NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, U.S. News & World Report contributing editor Gloria Borger claimed that Clinton was "pursuing" a run for the White House "in really a methodical way."
  • On the June 29, 2003, broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, Republican strategist Mary Matalin described Clinton has having been "a methodical and a serious senator."
  • During the January 3, 2001, broadcast of NBC's Today, NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert stated of Clinton's successful Senate campaign "Hillary Clinton during the campaign was disciplined and methodical."
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