On July 13, the political website JustHillary.com used the headline "REPORT: SHE RIPPED OFF GORE'S FLAG STORY" to link to a July 12 article on Time magazine's website. But the Time.com article itself, written by two former speechwriters to Vice President Al Gore, reached no definitive conclusion on the question raised by the article about whether Gore or then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton first used the "flag story" in a speech. In fact, the article indicated that Clinton told the story in question as long ago as 1996, and quotes Gore telling the story three years later, in 1999.
The article, written by former Gore speechwriters Kenneth Baer and Jeff Nussbaum, stated that during a recent campaign stop Clinton "ended her remarks with a poignant story, first told to her by then United Nations Ambassador Madeleine Albright," which recounted Albright's trip to the Czech Republic for the 50th anniversary celebration of the end of World War II:
"As [Albright] traveled around going from event to event, she kept seeing American flags everywhere. But when she looked more closely, she realized they had only 48 stars. And she asked people, where did this flag come from? And everyone told her the same thing. When the American GIs liberated Europe, they passed out these flags. Because remember, back then, Alaska and Hawaii weren't states yet. And Madeline said, "But you could have gotten into trouble having these flags." And people said, "They were like treasures. We passed them down from grand parent to parent to child and, yes, if the Soviets had known we had them, we could have gotten into trouble but we would never let them go." And when Madeline asked why they would keep these flags for 50 years, people said, "Because we love America and we love America's values." I want to be the president who restores that feeling about us around the world and equally importantly, I want us to feel that way about ourselves again."
Baer and Nussbaum wrote that Clinton told the story in an address at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquarters in Prague on July 4, 1996.
The authors then quoted a 1999 Gore address in which, they said, "there was no triumphant Albright returning to her homeland, just a man from Murfreesboro, Tennessee visiting his Senator":
As Gore told it, a man knocked on his Senate office door one day and told him how he had arrived in America after fleeing communist rule in Czechoslovokia. Years later, he and his wife went back to visit his hometown, newly liberated from communist rule, and they were stunned to see American flags everywhere:
"He couldn't understand it until he looked a little more closely at the flags and realized that each one of them had 48 stars on them, because the townspeople had kept them hidden underneath the beds and in the cupboards for 45 years -- waiting until the day that they could be free -- and celebrate the ideas and values and principles for which that flag and for which the United States of America stands."
While Baer and Nussbaum wrote that "Gore backdates his story to at least a decade before his 1999 telling, making it a full six years older than Albright's trip to Czechoslovakia," they offer no conclusion as to who learned of or told the story first and give no indication that Gore ever told the story before 1999.
This is not the first time JustHillary.com has suggested that Clinton might be using the anecdotes of others without proper attribution. As Media Matters for America documented, JustHillary.com also linked to a July 11 The Des Moines Register article, tagging it "HILLARY BORROWS A WAR STORY," in reference to an anecdote that Sen. Hillary Clinton reportedly tells on the campaign trail in Iowa, which, according to the Register, she attributes to former Gov. Tom Vilsack. While the Register headline itself -- "Hillary uses story Vilsack had told" -- falsely suggested that Clinton tried to pass off Vilsack's story as her own, JustHillary.com took the suggestion a step further, asserting that she "borrow[ed]" it.