Several media outlets seized on an article in The Atlantic that mentioned that former President Bill and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton gave their family cat, Socks, to Betty Currie -- with one outlet questioning whether Currie's adoption of Socks reveals Hillary Clinton to be "cold and calculating." But these media outlets made no mention of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's reported treatment of his own family pet, Seamus, an Irish setter, whom Romney reportedly placed "in a dog carrier" that was "attached ... to the station wagon's roof rack" during the Romney family's "annual 12-hour family trek from Boston to Ontario."
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Discussing the fact that upon leaving the White House in 2001, former President Bill and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) gave their family cat, Socks, to Betty Currie, who was then Bill Clinton's personal secretary, Fox & Friends co-anchor Brian Kilmeade claimed, "[N]ow all of a sudden you find out she dumped her cat and you wonder, 'Is anybody safe?' " Kilmeade was discussing an article in London's Sunday Times that asked whether giving Socks to Currie proved Hillary Clinton "too cold and calculating to win the presidency."
Socks' adoption by Currie is not something the media or the public is learning "all of a sudden," as Kilmeade asserted. On December 27, 2000, the New York Daily News reported: "The Clintons' cat, Socks, meanwhile, apparently has won the affection of the President's trusted secretary, Betty Currie, who has asked to adopt the cat, a source said." The Philadelphia Inquirer further reported on January 21, 2001: " 'Socks is off to Mrs. Currie's house,' said a Clinton aide who insisted on anonymity. 'She loves the cat. She wants the cat.' ... Socks came to the White House from Arkansas with the Clinton family in 1993 as Chelsea's pet. Chelsea is now a student at Stanford University."
The story recently garnered media attention after Caitlin Flanagan wrote (subscription required) in the November 2007 issue of The Atlantic: "In the annals of human evil, off-loading a pet is nowhere near the top of the list. But neither is it dead last, and it is especially galling when said pet had been deployed for years as an all-purpose character reference."
An October 21 article in London's Sunday Times titled, "Ouch! Hillary Clinton's softer image is clawed over dumped cat," quoted the Atlantic article and added: "Some believe the abandoned pet could now come between Hillary Clinton and her ambition to return to the White House as America's first woman president." The Sunday Times article also asserted: "Clinton's treatment of Socks cuts to the heart of the questions about her candidacy. Is she too cold and calculating to win the presidency? Or does it signify political invincibility by showing she is willing to deploy every weapon to get what she wants?"
The Drudge Report, the website of Internet gossip Matt Drudge, linked to the Sunday Times article with a caption that read, "Hillary's softer image is clawed over dumped cat ..." at 12:14 p.m. GMT on October 21. And a reprint of the Times article with the headline "Report: Dumped Cat Could Come Back to Haunt Hillary Clinton Campaign" appeared on FoxNews.com. Fox News' Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Brian Kilmeade all discussed Socks during the on October 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends.
But while finding relevance to Hillary Clinton's presidential bid in her relinquishment of the family cat, the media reporting it did not mention Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's reported treatment of his own family pet. On June 27, The Boston Globe reported that before the Romney family's "annual 12-hour family trek from Boston to Ontario" in 1983, "Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family's hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon's roof rack." Though noting that Romney "built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog," the article went on to report:
As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ''Dad!'' he yelled. ''Gross!'' A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.
As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.
In a June 27 article that discussed Romney's method for transporting Seamus, Time.com Washington editor Ana Marie Cox wrote:
Massachusetts's animal cruelty laws specifically prohibit anyone from carrying an animal "in or upon a vehicle, or otherwise, in an unnecessarily cruel or inhuman manner or in a way and manner which might endanger the animal carried thereon." An officer for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals responded to a description of the situation saying "it's definitely something I'd want to check out."
Romney responded to criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) over the alleged incident by saying: "You know, PETA has not been my fan over the years. PETA has been after me for having a rodeo at the Olympics and were very, very upset about that. PETA was after me when I went quail hunting in Georgia. And PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air." Romney also reportedly said about his dog: "He scrambled up there every time we went on trips. ... He got it all by himself and enjoyed it."
From the October 22 edition of Fox News' Fox and Friends:
CARLSON: Speaking of "sucks," now alls we have to do is change the vowel in this, Brian, and we end up with "Socks."
KILMEADE: Yeah, Socks wrote a few books, couple of books -- Hillary Clinton wrote it as well. Socks the Clinton cat authored a children's book with Hillary Clinton and was once a beloved member of the Clinton family. But something changed once they left the White House.
DOOCY: Yeah, absolutely. Socks the cat was regifted to that woman right there, Betty Currie, the former president's personal assistant. Now, the Times of London is suggesting that while Hillary's been trying to soften her image, the fact that she just dumped Socks on the secretary rather than make a home for Socks either in Georgetown, where her house is, or Chappaqua [New York], where the family house is, that, you know, it says a lot to some people who love animals.
KILMEADE: Socks and Buddy [the Clinton's chocolate Labrador] never got along.
CARLSON: Oh poor Buddy. She didn't have to make a decision really about Buddy, because Buddy got run over the minute that he left the White House. Isn't that sad?
CARLSON: He moved out to New York in Chappaqua, he didn't understand traffic patterns --
DOOCY: Well who does?
CARLSON: Yeah and he got hit. But here's what I think -- maybe Hillary should travel with Socks the cat. I think that that would make her very likable. Don't you, to carry around a kitty the whole time?
DOOCY: I don't know. That's kind of tough. How would she do it --
CARLSON: She could travel, she could travel with Socks.
DOOCY: Rent a cat?
KILMEADE: Well the thing is, you have the risk as someone who has been making herself -- embracing the female vote. She's trying to be more of a mom figure over the last two weeks, appearing on The View, talking about how long it takes you to get ready for these stump speeches, saying "Ooh, why all the men picking on me." She looks like such a kind woman for the last two weeks. Now all of a sudden you find out she dumped her cat and you wonder, "Is anybody safe?"
CARLSON: Yeah, but did Bill have anything to do with dumping the cat?
CARLSON: Maybe it's a 50-50 split.
DOOCY: Yeah why didn't the former president take it home to Chappaqua?
CARLSON: He's not doing anything.
HILLARY CLINTON [audio clip]: Let people make their own judgments.
DOOCY: Thank you very much, Senator Clinton.
KILMEADE: You know why? Because Bill never wrote a book with Socks. Socks wrote a book with Hillary.
CARLSON: She penned it?
KILMEADE: She wrote it, but it was basically based on Socks the cat.
DOOCY: Thank you.
CARLSON: All right, more later on about Socks.
DOOCY: I don't know, I think I'm sick of it.
CARLSON: You're sick of it? Sick of Socks?
DOOCY: I'm done with socks.
ALISYN CAMEROTA (news anchor): Socks sucks. I'm just tying in all of our last news stories together.