In "Clinton Chapters" segment, Hannity omitted key points from journalist on whose reporting he based the segment

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

During a Hannity's America "Clinton Chapters" segment highlighting Hillary Clinton's alleged "connections with a communist law firm," host Sean Hannity omitted key points from reporting by The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein despite Hannity claiming his report was "based on reporting from ... Gerstein." Specifically, Hannity asserted that Jessica Mitford, the wife of one of the partners at the firm where Clinton held a summer internship, "decided to use her connection to the Clintons to get the state of Arkansas to drop the extradition or to completely pardon" an escaped fugitive after Bill Clinton had become Arkansas governor. But Hannity didn't note Gerstein's reporting that the Clintons rebuffed the request. Hannity also questioned whether Hillary Clinton had "sympathy with the Communist Party" in deciding to clerk at the firm but failed to note Gerstein's reporting quoting a partner in the law firm calling Clinton "much more of a classic liberal than the rest of us."

On the December 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America, host Sean Hannity asserted: "[T]onight, we travel back in time to the early 70's, and based on reporting from New York Sun reporter Josh Gerstein, we take a rare look at [Sen.] Hillary Clinton's [D-NY] affiliation with a group of radicals more than three decades ago." Hannity was referring to Clinton's time as a law clerk for the then-California law firm Treuhaft, Walker, and Burnstein in the early 1970s. However, during the following segment, which was supposedly "based on reporting from" Gerstein, Hannity omitted key points from Gerstein's own reporting. Specifically, Hannity reported that Jessica Mitford, who was married to Robert Treuhaft, one of the partners at the firm, tried to get the state of Arkansas to pardon Arkansas prison escapee James Dean Walker after Bill Clinton became governor of the state. But Hannity did not report that, according to Gerstein, the Clintons rebuffed the request. Further, Hannity questioned whether Clinton had "sympathy with the communist Party" in deciding to clerk at the firm but did not note Gerstein's report quoting one of the firm's partners, who said Clinton was "much more of a classic liberal than the rest of us."

Hannity's report was the latest edition in a series on Hannity's America titled "The Clinton Chapters," whose assertions Media Matters for America has repeatedly debunked.

During the segment, Hannity asserted: "Ironically, after Hillary left the law firm and turned into the first lady of Arkansas, the firm's wild antics continued to follow her." Hannity then asserted that Mitford "decided to use her connection to the Clintons to get the state of Arkansas to drop the extradition or completely pardon" Walker, who had been convicted of murdering a Little Rock police officer, after Hillary Clinton became the first lady of Arkansas.

HANNITY: Ironically, after Hillary left the law firm and turned into the first lady of Arkansas, the firm's wild antics continued to follow her. There was the case of the Arkansas prison system that came to light soon after Bill became governor in 1979. There were allegations the inmates in Arkansas jails were living in inhumane conditions. A key player in the publicity in that case was Jessica Mitford, the wife of firm partner Bob Treuhaft.

Mitford's involvement in the case had to do with an Arkansas prison escapee, James Dean Walker. He had been convicted of murder of a Little Rock police officer. While in jail, he had won furloughs for religious work and failed to return to the prison from one of those jobs. He fled to California and was later arrested on drug charges. Arkansas officials tried for his extradition back to Arkansas, but his lawyers fought it. Since Mitford was involved in the case, she decided to use her connection to the Clintons to get the state of Arkansas to drop the extradition or to completely pardon Walker.

However, even though Gerstein appears on camera several times during the "Clinton Chapters" segment, Hannity did not note Gerstein's reporting in his November 27 New York Sun article -- the subhead of which is, "Jessica Mitford Is Rebuffed by a Friend" -- that "[d]espite an aggressive campaign, including a personal visit Mitford paid to Little Rock, the Clintons did not budge [by dropping extradition or pardoning Walker]. Mitford, who clearly expected a different response, later described the episode as a 'furious falling-out.' " From Gerstein's article:

Mitford, best known for her 1963 exposé of the funeral industry, "American Way of Death," was also a civil rights activist who had long decried American prisons and the justice system in the South. In 1980, she seized on the case of an Arkansas prison escapee, James Dean Walker, who had been convicted at two separate trials of the murder of a Little Rock police officer during a traffic stop in 1963. Walker, who became a born-again Christian in prison and won furloughs for religious work, failed to return from one of those sojourns in 1975.

Walker fled to California, where he took up residence near Lake Tahoe. In 1979, he was arrested on drug charges. Arkansas officials soon moved for Walker's extradition back to Arkansas.

Walker's California lawyers tried to block his return, arguing that Arkansas prison conditions were unconstitutionally cruel and that he faced particular danger because a warden had threatened to kill him. Walker also argued that he had been wrongly convicted.

For left-wing activists, Walker's challenge to his extradition represented a chance to call attention to prison conditions across the South. Mitford decided to try to leverage her husband's ties to Mrs. Clinton to get Arkansas to drop the extradition or to pardon Walker outright. Despite an aggressive campaign, including a personal visit Mitford paid to Little Rock, the Clintons did not budge. Mitford, who clearly expected a different response, later described the episode as a "furious falling-out."

Also during the segment, Hannity purported to address Clinton's motives for "travel[ling] thousands of miles across the country" to work for Treuhaft, Walker, and Burnstein. Hannity quoted author Carl Bernstein's assertion in A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Random House, June 2007) that Clinton's "attraction to the firm wasn't ideology but rather its defense of constitutional causes." Hannity then cited a comment by Treuhaft, who was quoted by Bernstein in A Woman in Charge asserting that "[t]here was no reason except politics" for Clinton to work for the firm, and that she "was certainly in sympathy with all of the left causes." Hannity added: " 'Sympathy with all the left causes,' or sympathy with the Communist Party?":

HANNITY: What was it that attracted young Miss Rodham to this firm? Was there a deciding factor? After all, she was focusing on child custody cases, so why travel thousands of miles across the country to work at this particular law firm? Some people say she was referred to this law firm by a professor. Another story says that she was referred to them by a friend. But in the book A Woman in Charge, author Carl Bernstein tells us what he thinks, saying, quote, "Hillary's attraction to the firm was not ideology but rather its defense of constitutional causes," end quote. But in the same book, Robert Treuhaft, one of the firm's communist partners, is quoted as saying, "The only reason I could think of, because none of us knew her, was because we were a so-called movement law firm at the time. There was no reason except politics for a girl from Yale, she ... was in sympathy with all of the left causes," end quote.

"Sympathy with all the left causes" or sympathy with the Communist Party? But as research shows us, Hillary's involvement in the firm's cases wasn't that intense. Since she was just one of the summer's law clerks, her duties were limited to drafting motions and reading through transcripts. She did mostly grunt work and recalls that experience in her memoir.

Hannity did not note, however, that in a November 26 article Gerstein quoted another of the firm's partners, Malcolm Burnstein, on the topic of why Clinton worked for the firm. Gerstein wrote that "Mr. Burnstein said Mrs. Clinton was probably drawn to the firm by its civil rights work and not by the left-wing politics of its partners, though she expressed no disquiet about that. 'There was nothing revolutionary about Hillary, and I do not say that pejoratively,' he said. 'She was much more of a classic liberal than the rest of us.' "

From Gerstein's November 26 article:

When the connection did emerge, halfway through a Herb Caen column in the [San Francisco] Chronicle on Nov. 12, 1992, eight days after the election, some conservatives likely viewed it as confirmation of Mrs. Clinton's radical views. However, some on the left side of the political spectrum who knew the Treuhaft firm were taken aback.

"I was quite shocked when I found out that Hillary had been there the summer after I was," Ms. Nichols, a Democrat who holds a top environmental post under [California] Governor [Arnold] Schwarzenegger, said. "She certainly downplayed anything that would make you think that'd be the kind of place she'd summer....Once the political career was actually launched, Hillary's whole life has been about being moderate and fending off criticism from friends on the left."

"I was kind of surprised when I heard she had worked there," Mr. Siegel recalled. "Anything I've ever heard about her or known about wouldn't have led me to think she was interested in Marxism, for example, or any other kind of left politics."

Mr. Burnstein said Mrs. Clinton was probably drawn to the firm by its civil rights work and not by the left-wing politics of its partners, though she expressed no disquiet about that. "There was nothing revolutionary about Hillary, and I do not say that pejoratively," he said. "She was much more of a classic liberal than the rest of us."

Mr. Burnstein said he also detected a clear change in Mrs. Clinton's political outlook after she faced real-world campaigning with her husband. "The Hillary that clerked for us that summer is not the Hillary that ran for the Senate and is not the Hillary that was in the White House for eight years. The politics were noticeably different," Mr. Burnstein said. "The Hillary of 1971 was much more idealistic and progressive in the sense we would use the term today than the Hillary we saw after her exposure to politics in Arkansas."

From the December 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America:

HANNITY: And good evening, and welcome to this brand-new edition of Hannity's America. I'm Sean Hannity. We have a great show for you this week, and we start with another installment in our ongoing series called "The Clinton Chapters." Now tonight, we travel back in time to the early '70s, and based on reporting from New York Sun reporter Josh Gerstein, we take a rare look at Hillary Clinton's affiliation with a group of radicals more than three decades ago.

[begin video clip]

HANNITY: Chapter 12: Hillary's lost summer. It was the spring of 1971. Hillary Rodham was a second-year law student at Yale who had recently started dating fellow student Bill Clinton. Within weeks of their relationship, Hillary had to decide how she was going to spend her summer and told Bill she was going to Oakland, California, to intern at the law firm of Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein.

[...]

HANNITY: What was it that attracted young Miss Rodham to this firm? Was there a deciding factor? After all, she was focusing on child custody cases, so why travel thousands of miles across the country to work at this particular law firm? Some people say she was referred to this law firm by a professor. Another story says that she was referred to them by a friend. But in the book A Woman in Charge, author Carl Bernstein tells us what he thinks, saying, quote, "Hillary's attraction to the firm was not ideology but rather its defense of constitutional causes," end quote. But in the same book, Robert Treuhaft, one of the firm's communist partners, is quoted as saying, "The only reason I could think of, because none of us knew her, was because we were a so-called movement law firm at the time. There was no reason except politics for a girl from Yale, she ... was in sympathy with all of the left causes," end quote.

"Sympathy with all the left causes," or sympathy with the Communist Party? But as research shows us, Hillary's involvement in the firm's cases wasn't that intense. Since she was just one of the summer's law clerks, her duties were limited to drafting motions and reading through transcripts. She did mostly grunt work and recalls that experience in her memoir.

HANNITY [audio clip, reading from Clinton's book Living History]: I spent most of my time working For Mal Burnstein researching, writing legal motions and briefs for a child custody case.

HANNITY: But her interest in the firm's cases is that drew her to the radical practice and perhaps the events leading up to her clerkship trained her for this. If we go back to New Haven in 1970 in the criminal trial of Black Panthers leader Bobby Seale, well, that was under way. He was on trial for kidnapping and murdering another member of the Panthers. As interest in the trial grew at Yale, many of the radicals on campus started believing that Seale would not be able to receive a fair trial. As students prepared for a mass rally in support of the Black Panthers on trial, it is said that Hillary Clinton too was involved. According to the book Murder in the Model City by Paul Bass and Douglas Ray, Hillary led a student committee that monitored the trial and offered legal advice to demonstrators who got arrested.

Now, the timing of the next part is unclear, but at some point during the trial, Bob Treuhaft and his wife, Jessica, stopped in New Haven and threw a party to raise money for the Panthers' defense, and according to reports, Hillary attended the rally. Now the situation brings us up to her clerkship.

GERSTEIN: One thing I discovered during my research is that during the summer of 1971, while Mrs. Clinton was there, Bob Treuhaft, one of the partners of this firm, was representing a Black Panther member. He was a friend of the famous Black Panther Huey Newton in what was basically a cop-killing trial in Oakland, California.

HANNITY: But on top of the Black Panther case, there were many others that a future president would not want to associate themselves with. Some stem from working on cases involving draft dissents and others issues dealing with Vietnam. Then there was the case of Angela Davis, the communist and black revolutionary who was charged with murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy charges from a shooting that left a judge dead.

Ironically, after Hillary left the law firm and turned into the first lady of Arkansas, the firm's wild antics continued to follow her. There was the case of the Arkansas prison system that came to light soon after Bill became governor in 1979. There were allegations the inmates in Arkansas jails were living in inhumane conditions. A key player in the publicity in that case was Jessica Mitford, the wife of firm partner Bob Treuhaft.

Mitford's involvement in the case had to do with an Arkansas prison escapee, James Dean Walker. He had been convicted of murder of a Little Rock police officer. While in jail, he had won furloughs for religious work and failed to return to the prison from one of those jobs. He fled to California and was later arrested on drug charges. Arkansas officials tried for his extradition back to Arkansas, but his lawyers fought it. Since Mitford was involved in the case, she decided to use her connection to the Clintons to get the state of Arkansas to drop the extradition or to completely pardon Walker.

So while Hillary herself was never an acting lawyer on any of these cases, her interest in working with the firm still raises many questions and opens just another part of her questionable past. And if she had nothing to hide from, why did she bury it so deep in her past?

GERSTEIN [video clip]: She doesn't square herself with what went on back then. Does she regret having worked for this firm, or does she embrace it? And she's sort of driven it down the middle. It's kind of interesting that in 25 years in public life, nobody has really squarely put the question to her about why she ended up there.

HANNITY: The summer of 1971 remains a mystery to all of us. Why is Hillary so secretive about this part of her life as well? And will anyone ever step forward to confront her about her connections with a communist law firm. Or is this another chapter in the Clinton past that will never be closed?

Person
Sean Hannity
Show/Publication
Hannity's America
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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