The Washington Post's Michael D. Shear, echoing earlier reports in the Post and other media outlets, stated that former President Bill Clinton accused Democratic "rivals" of his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, "of 'Swift boat'-style piling-on during the latest [Democratic presidential] debate." But Bill Clinton did not accuse Democrats of " 'Swift boat'-style piling-on"; rather, in a November 5 speech, he criticized Republican attacks on Democrats and the role the media play in contributing to such attacks.
A November 14 Washington Post article by staff writer Michael D. Shear on Republican presidential candidates' attacks on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) claimed, "With less than two months until voting begins, the Democratic front-runner [Hillary Clinton] has become a target for rivals in her own party as well, prompting her husband, the former president, to accuse them of 'Swift boat'-style piling-on during the latest debate." But, as Media Matters for America has documented, former President Bill Clinton did not accuse Democrats of " 'Swift boat'-style piling-on during the latest debate." Rather, in a November 5 speech, he criticized Republican attacks on Democrats and the role the media play in contributing to such attacks.
The Post made a similar false claim in a November 8 article by staff writer Dan Balz, which stated that Bill Clinton "compared the attacks on his wife by Democratic opponents [Sen. Barack] Obama [IL], former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) to the television commercials aired against Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential race and to GOP ads targeting then-Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) in 2002."
From Clinton's speech:
PRESIDENT CLINTON: [T]he point I'm here to make to you is whoever you're for, this is a really big election. We saw what happened the last seven years when we made decisions in elections based on trivial matters. When we listened to people make snide comments about whether Vice President [Al] Gore was too stiff. When they made dishonest claims about the things that he said that he'd done in his life. When that scandalous Swift boat ad was run against Senator [John] Kerry [D-MA].
When there was an ad that defeated [former Sen.] Max Cleland [D] in Georgia -- a man that left half his body in Vietnam. And a guy that had several deferments ran an ad with Max Cleland's picture with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, because he dared to vote against the president's version of the Homeland Security bill.
Why am I saying this?
Because, I had the feeling, at the end of that last debate, we were about to get into cutesy land again. "Ya'll raise your hand if you're for illegal immigrants getting driver's licenses." So, we'll then let the Republicans run an ad saying, "All the Democrats are against the rule of law."
I don't -- look, I think it's fine to discuss immigration. We should. Illegal immigration needs to be discussed, and it's fine for Hillary and all these other guys to be asked about Governor Spitzer's plan -- but not in 30 seconds, yes, no, raise your hand. This is a complicated issue. This is a complicated issue.
So, do I hope you'll vote for my wife? You bet I do. It'd be good for America and good for the world. But, more than that, I came here to tell you today: Don't you dare let them take this election away from you. This belongs to you and to your children -- and to the future of America.
Don't be diverted. Don't be divided. Our best days are still ahead, claim them. Thank you.
As Media Matters previously noted, several media outlets in addition to the Post falsely reported that Clinton had criticized Democratic presidential candidates for "swift-boating" his wife following her response to a question from Democratic presidential debate moderator Tim Russert about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's (D) proposal to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.
From Balz's November 8 Post report:
Obama also criticized Bill Clinton's comments to a Las Vegas union crowd on Monday, when the former president compared the attacks on his wife by Democratic opponents Obama, former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) to the television commercials aired against Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential race and to GOP ads targeting then-Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) in 2002.
The former president's comments drew widespread, though private, reactions from strategists in rival campaigns, who argued that he had dramatically exaggerated the criticism his wife had received and had stretched credulity with his Swift-boat analogy. A senior Clinton aide was quoted as saying that the former president's remarks were not helpful to his wife's candidacy and that he was not speaking for the campaign.
Another official later tried to distance the campaign from the suggestion that officials were trying to distance the candidate from her husband.
From Shear's article in the November 14 edition of The Washington Post:
They mock her proposals, utter her name with a sneer and win standing ovations by ridiculing her ideas as un-American, even socialistic. She has become the one thing the Republican candidates for president can agree on.
Earlier this year, the senator from New York was the subject of an occasional laugh line from former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Now, the trickle has become a torrent as the leading GOP candidates seek to one-up one another in a Clinton-bashing contest aimed at energizing their party faithful.
"The competition inside the GOP for who's the most anti-Hillary is going to pay dividends," said Greg Strimple, a GOP pollster and consultant who is not working with any presidential campaign. "Looking for that piece of anti-Hillary energy is what you're seeing right now."
The attacks have come during the GOP debates, on the stump, in television interviews, and in campaign commercials traditionally reserved for criticism of primary-season rivals.
In an ad unveiled yesterday, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) again criticizes Clinton for seeking $1 million for a Woodstock museum. An ad from former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney airing now in New Hampshire slams her for having "not run a corner store" and adds: "She hasn't run a state. ... She has never run anything."
In the first five GOP debates, stretching from early May to late September, the candidates and the moderators mentioned Clinton's name eight times. During the first October debate, she came up 13 times. And at the Oct. 21 debate, she was the subject of conversation 29 times.
"You know, it's interesting, the most, I guess, wonderful reaction we've had in this entire room is when Hillary's name is mentioned," noted former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee that night. "It gets louder than an Aerosmith concert."
With less than two months until voting begins, the Democratic front-runner has become a target for rivals in her own party as well, prompting her husband, the former president, to accuse them of "Swift boat"-style piling-on during the latest debate.