Bill Clinton

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  • Former NY Times Executive Editor Tells Politico: David Brock Is Right, The Times Gives Hillary Clinton Unfair Scrutiny

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to Politico's Glenn Thrush, Jill Abramson, the former New York Times executive editor, said in a recent interview that she agreed with Media Matters founder David Brock that the Times has given an unfair "level of scrutiny" to Hillary Clinton.

    Over the past year, the Times has repeatedly bungled reporting on Hillary Clinton's use of email, falsely claiming in a July report that Clinton was under criminal investigation, a story for which they issued numerous corrections. The Times' public editor Margaret Sullivan criticized the paper for publishing a "sensational" story with "major journalistic problems." In response to that report and several other issues with the paper's journalism David Brock called on the Times to commission a review of its reporting on Clinton.

    Politico's Glenn Thrush reported March 21 that Abramson, in an interview, said she "agree[d]" with Brock that the Times gave the Clintons "an unfair 'level of scrutiny,'" saying Hillary Clinton "'does get more scrutiny" than other candidates - especially male candidates.'" From Politico:

    A couple of years back, a friend of Hillary Clinton's told me the candidate-to-be was "disappointed" that the first woman to edit the New York Times -- veteran investigative reporter Jill Abramson -- wasn't more sympathetic to her plight as a feminist pioneer in politics.

    In fact, both the candidate and her more volatile spouse went a lot further, venting to people around them that they saw the country's most powerful paper as a kind of special prosecutor in a blue plastic bag, whose top editors were bent on scouring them with an alacrity not directed at other politicians ("They are out to get us," the former president told a friend more recently).

    No way, says Abramson, whose personal association with the Clintons goes back nearly 40 years. (Little-known fact: the woman who led coverage of the Clintons at the Times for a decade -- as Washington bureau chief, and then as executive editor -- briefly worked as a consultant on one of Bill Clinton's campaigns in Arkansas.) But Abramson lingers on the larger point of media fairness to Hillary Clinton, and gingerly concedes something few editors would ever admit. 

    "She does get more scrutiny" than other candidates - especially male candidates, Abramson told me during a 50-minute interview for POLITICO's "Off Message" podcast last week. When I asked her if Clinton's arch-defender David Brock had a point when he lashed the Times for giving the Clintons an unfair "level of scrutiny," she interrupted - to agree. 

    "Yeah, I do," said Abramson - who was ousted in 2014 after reportedly complaining that her compensation package was inferior to that of her male predecessor, Bill Keller. 

    "[W]e, for some reason, expect total purity from a woman candidate," added Abramson, who rose to the top job in 2011. "I did not feel, during my regime, that we were giving her way more scrutiny than anyone else." But, she said, "Where I think Hillary Clinton faces, you know, certainly more of a burden is that the controversies she's been in are immediately labeled, you know, Travel-gate or Email-gate... if you actually asked people what about any of these controversies bothers them, they don't know anything specific about any of them." 


    And Abramson isn't overly impressed by the one Clinton storyline getting the most attention: the lingering probe into the former secretary of state's "homebrew" email server during her Foggy Bottom tenure. Like Whitewater, the scandal was uncovered by a New York Times reporter; like Whitewater, it is regarded as a deus ex machina by Republicans facing political gloom; and like Whitewater, it will likely turn out to be more froth than flood, in Abramson's view. "I won't say nothing - but very little," she said, referring to the sum significance of Clinton's scandals. 

    When I asked if the Times email stories (executed after her departure, in 2015) were "a big deal," Abramson - who has taken pains not to criticize her former paper or its current editors - paused. 

    "It depends on, you know, what your definition of "big deal" is, but I'm not going to play Bill Clinton for you here," she said, referring to the former president's infamous what-is-is monologue during his Monica Lewinsky deposition. "The issue, to me, that's at the crux is that everything that we know that was classified was classified after the fact, after the emails were sent. And so, why is that a big deal? And the fact that she had this private email is something that, you know, I've read widely, a lot of people in the government - Colin Powell, let's face it, got much bigger speaking fees than Hillary did."

  • Breitbart Blames Bill And Hillary Clinton For Every Organization With The Word Clinton In It

    Breitbart H1-B Attack Blames Clinton Family For Schools, Pharmacies, Catering Organizations

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A Breitbart News report misread results from a database to inaccurately claim that Clinton-affiliated organizations requested up to 87 H-1B visas from 2011-2014 in an attempt to criticize Clinton -- a strange line of attack, given that the visa category is uncontroversial and receives bipartisan support. Breitbart News has a history of providing unreliable information to readers, including such journalistic missteps as identifying the wrong person in its reports and incorrectly reading sources.

    A March 10 Breitbart News piece by Neil Munro claimed that "Clinton family charities have outsourced many U.S. white-collar jobs to foreign college graduates" by requesting H1-B visas, which allow organizations to recruit and employ highly skilled and specialized foreign professionals in specific occupations. The report cited the website, where Munro claimed a search of Clinton-affiliated organizations "requested up to 87 H-1B workers".

    However, a search of "Clinton" on the website finds that the 87 number is completely false. Breitbart included organizations that are not affiliated with the Clintons, such as Clinton City Schools and the Mercy Medical Center - Clinton:

    Excluding the organizations not connected to the Clintons, the actual number of visa requests from Clinton-connected organizations is 56, or a drop of 36 percent from the misleading number Breitbart reported. Moreover, Breitbart admits the precise number of requests may even be lower, as the total may include duplicate requests.

    Breitbart's attack rings especially hollow as  H-1B visas have enjoyed support from both Democrats and Republicans. In fact, increasing the number of H-1B visas was part of the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that easily passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support, as well as another bipartisan-sponsored bill in 2015 that sought to increase the number of visas. Many other international organizations -- including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the American Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, Koch Industries and the Heritage Foundation -- have also used the H-1B visa program.

    Breitbart News has a history of unreliability. In January, it claimed Washington Free Beacon founder Michael Goldfarb had criticized Donald Trump in a BBC piece, which clearly referred to a different Goldfarb. In 2014, it attacked President Obama's nominee for attorney general by going after the wrong Loretta Lynch. In 2013, it alleged then-Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel received funding from a group called Friends of Hamas -- an organization that never actually existed. Munro, who authored the Clinton H-1B visa piece, also has history of flawed reporting, claiming in 2012 that President Obama was the lead attorney in a class action discrimination lawsuit regarding home loans that helped trigger the 2008 economic collapse. In fact, Obama had little involvement in the case, and the case was not a contributor to the economic meltdown.

  • Conservative Media Run With Misleading Report That Bill Clinton Slammed Obama

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Right-wing media repeatedly cited a misleading Tennessee newspaper report that took former President Bill Clinton out of context to claim that he criticized President Obama during a campaign speech for not doing enough to effect change in the country. In fact, full video of Clinton's remarks reveals that he repeatedly praised Obama's accomplishments and explicitly criticized those who claim that Obama didn't accomplish enough.

  • Conventional Wisdom And Bill Clinton

    The Beltway Narrative Shifts, And Suddenly Clinton Is Old And Out Of Touch

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Bill ClintonYou can watch the Beltway media's narrative shift before your eyes, as reporters get bored with the story they've been telling and move on to something counterintuitive and new. Journalists want to tell stories, not just report facts, and the stories they choose to tell based on cherry-picked examples are often bad for progressives.

    Old conventional wisdom: Bill Clinton is the greatest politician of his generation, with a unique ability to inspire audiences in his speeches.

    New conventional wisdom: Bill Clinton is old, tired, and should hang it up.

    Patrick Healy kicked off the change with a 1,400-word January 28 New York Times trend piece that cited a Clinton speech Healy attended in Iowa the previous night, a speech his colleague attended in Las Vegas last week, and the opinions of a handful of observers as evidence that "the old magic seems to be missing." (Other journalists who saw those same speeches came away with dramatically different interpretations of Clinton's performance; Healy wrote a similar piece last March.)

    Now Mark Halperin, a key bellwether for Beltway insider journalists, has picked up the narrative. During today's edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, he called Healy's story "pretty accurate." Halperin said that he had seen Clinton at an event yesterday and that while the former president's "best moments are great," he was "not his best," with "a little bit of a rambling quality to his presentation." "I thought he was better in New Hampshire when I saw him last week," Halperin added.

    Indeed. After that January 20 speech in New Hampshire, Halperin said on Morning Joe that Clinton had been "as good as I've seen him in years in driving a message." He also issued a stream of tweets describing the event as a "#ClintonClassic."

    Just before the speech he attended yesterday, Halperin was calling Clinton "The Master."

    Somehow, one speech and one Times article later, the narrative has shifted dramatically.

  • NY Times Versus The Rest Of The Press On Bill Clinton's Campaign Appearances

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    For the second time in 10 months, New York Times reporter Patrick Healy has issued a breathless piece describing former President Bill Clinton as old and out of touch on the stump. This one is based largely on Clinton's purported performance in two speeches, only one of which Healy actually attended.

    After observing Clinton on the campaign trail, Healy has decided that "the old magic seems missing." That might be news to the rest of the press corps, who have been highlighting the "forceful" speeches he has given in "classic Clinton fashion."

    Healy builds an entire 1,400-word January 28 trend piece about Clinton's "subdued" style and the former president's supposed inability to rally his audience around a speech Healy attended in Iowa the previous night, a speech his colleague attended in Las Vegas last week, and the opinions of a handful of observers. The reporter concludes that "the Clinton of lore, the once-in-a generation political natural who fought back to win his party's nomination in 1992 and came through in clutch moments with great speeches over the years, has yet to appear."

    But other reporters covering the same events appear to have come away with a dramatically different view of Clinton's presence on campaign trail.

    Healy claims that during a January 21 speech in Las Vegas, Clinton "looked smaller and his voice seemed weaker than in past campaigns" and left his audience "seeming more politely attentive than inspired." (Healy was in Iowa at the time of that speech; according to the piece, his colleague Adam Nagourney "contributed reporting from Las Vegas.") But other reporters covering that speech described him as "composed," rallying a crowd of "cheering supporters." Journalists have also described the Iowa event Healy referenced as one in which Clinton "made a forceful pitch" then "lingered on the rope line" to meet supporters.

    Healy previously authored a similar Times piece from March 2015 that described Clinton's "frail frame" that "looks older than his 68 years" and buttresses GOP claims that "the Clintons are America's baby boomer past." That piece had to be corrected; it had claimed that Clinton was "chauffeured," when Clinton is actually driven by a United States Secret Service agent.

  • The Nation's Joan Walsh Explains Donald Trump's "Sexist New Low" In His Attacks On The Clintons

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    The Nation's National Affairs Correspondent Joan Walsh explained that Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has "mainstream[ed] the ugliest right-wing conspiracy theories about both Clintons" and his newest attempt to blame Hillary Clinton for the past actions of her husband "takes a special kind of misogyny."

    Since launching his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has attacked nearly every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate, but his attacks on Hillary Clinton have drawn special praise from right-wing media. After Trump attacked Clinton for returning late to a December 19 debate, Fox News' Andrea Tantaros called him "masterful" for supposedly "baiting" the Democratic frontrunner in a way that made her look like "a whiny, weak female." The hosts of Fox News' Fox & Friends neglected to question Trump about his anti-Clinton tirade, even though mainstream media lambasted him for his "vulgar" and "astonishingly sexist" lines of attack. More recently, several conservative outlets and personalities -- including Brietbart News, RedState, Rush Limbaugh, and Jeffrey Lord -- were quick to defend Trump, and scapegoat Hillary Clinton, after Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric was featured in a recruitment video produced by an Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group.

    In the January 5 article, Joan Walsh explained that Trump, who has a long history of injecting fringe news and conspiracy theories into mainstream news coverage, is simply "doing what he's so good at doing: dragging ugly mutant ideas from the dark, dank swamps of right-wing paranoia and setting them free" to "whip up the GOP base." In response to mounting accusations of sexism, Walsh explained how "with typical Trump logic, he's retaliating with one of the most sexist insults to Clinton so far in this campaign." From The Nation:

    Donald Trump, the man of the bottomless bottom, is making headlines for slurring Hillary Clinton as an "enabler" of her husband's sexual misbehavior. Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball, who doesn't shock easily, seemed staggered by it Monday night, insisting he'd never heard such a claim about Clinton before. "It's beyond indecent," he said.  

    It may be beyond indecent, and I accept that Matthews never heard it said before. But calling Clinton an "enabler," and making similar nasty charges about her supposed responsibility for Bill Clinton's sexual conduct, have long been staples of Hillary-hate on the right--and some mainstream pundits have dipped a toe in the hate swamp on occasion, too. 

    With a five-minute Google search I found Roger Stone, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, Joe Walsh, and Laura Ingraham making that claim. And back in 2003, Hillary-hater-in-chief Maureen Dowd of The New York Times defended Arnold Schwarzenegger by blaming Clinton for encouraging feminists to ignore her husband's bad behavior. 

    "Feminism died," Dowd raved, "in 1998 when Hillary allowed henchlings and Democrats to demonize Monica as an unbalanced stalker, and when Gloria Steinem defended Mr. Clinton against Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones by saying he had merely made clumsy passes, then accepted rejection, so there was no sexual harassment involved." But Dowd is alone among mainstream journalists in what she's willing to fling at Hillary Clinton; for the most part, the Clinton-as-enabler slur is confined to the right.

    Trump is doing what he's so good at doing: dragging ugly mutant ideas from the dark, dank swamps of right-wing paranoia and setting them free in the mainstream, where they shock some journalists, disgust most Americans and whip up the GOP base. The GOP front-runner got angry when Clinton accused him of sexism (after he said she'd been "schlonged" by Barack Obama in 2008 and called her mid-debate bathroom break "disgusting.") Of course, with typical Trump logic, he's retaliating with one of the most sexist insults to Clinton so far in this campaign. Blaming a woman for her husband's infidelity takes a special kind of misogyny. It will only worsen his already sizable gender gap at the polls.

  • Trump Resurrects Talk Of Bill Clinton's Sex Life, The Press Cheers

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Confirmed: Even after all these years, you don't have to ask the Beltway press corps twice to dwell on Bill Clinton's sex life.

    Donald Trump found that out the easy way over the holiday break when he unleashed attacks on Clinton, calling him, among other things, "one of the great abusers of the world." Far-right conservatives have embraced Trump's attack to denounce Clinton as a serial predator on par with accused rapist Bill Cosby.

    Trump rang a bell that the press loves to hear rung, and journalists sprang into action. The Sunday shows this week churned with panel discussions about the political significance of Bill Clinton's distant private life. The Washington Post quickly produced a handy, "Guide to the Allegations of Bill Clinton's Womanizing," which included some second-hand allegations from nameless sources about Clinton's private life from three decades ago in Arkansas.

    Editors at the Wall Street Journal dialed up the 1990s Wayback Machine and quickly typed up an angry editorial condemning "Bill's runaway libido," while The New York Times' Frank Bruni predicted the "Clintons' marital psychodrama" could emerge as a major political story in 2016.

    As I noted two years ago while Sen. Rand Paul amassed glowing Beltway reviews after he called Bill Clinton a "sexual predator" (the move was deemed savvy by D.C. pundits anxious to re-enter the Clinton bedroom), those kinds of attacks are like sending out the Bat-Signal inside the Beltway: It's an electric transmission that the press simply cannot, and will not, ignore.

    The bountiful coverage that Trump sparked with a few snide comments about Clinton highlighted the larger press phenomenon that fuels his campaign: Trump's run is essentially being paid for by the Beltway press, which has rewarded him with unprecedented amount of media attention -- free media attention. (Over the weekend, Trump bragged that he'd spent almost no money on his campaign to date.)

    Some television pundits over the weekend -- while discussing Trump's attacks on Clinton, of course -- practically admitted that they're helping the Trump campaign get its message out. 

    "We're going to report on what Donald Trump's line of campaign direction is," said The Hill's A.B. Stoddard on Fox News, basically summarizing the working premise of today's campaign coverage: Trump said X, therefore it's big news.

    But why? Why has the campaign press abdicated its reporting responsibilities to Trump tweets and loudmouth comments he makes on cable TV?

    The current kefuffle began when Trump made one of his signature sexist gestures by claiming Hillary Clinton got "schlonged" by Obama during the 2008 Democratic primaries. When Clinton noted to the Des Moines Register, "It's not the first time he's demonstrated a penchant for sexism," Trump responded by claiming she was a hypocrite for charging sexism because her husband was guilty of "abuse of women," and because Hillary herself also "abused" women involved with her husband. (There's certainly no evidence of that.)

    And the press seemed to agree. The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus waved off Trump's disgusting "schlonged" attack on Clinton, suggesting the crude assault represented an "awfully mild" form of sexism. (The columnist suggested Clinton faked her anger over the "schlonged" comment.) For Marcus, the far bigger concern today is Bill Clinton's '90's sex life. Marcus is sure it's "far worse than any of the offensive things that Trump has said." (On Face The Nation, Marcus said it was "smart" of Trump to attack Clinton; to call him "one of the great abusers of the world.")

    Keep in mind that over the years Trump has called Rosie O'Donnell "disgusting, I mean, both inside and out. You take a look at her, she's a slob." He tweeted that Arianna Huffington "is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision." 

    He's denounced breastfeeding as "disgusting" while claiming sexual assault in the military is to be expected. And he told New York Times columnist Gail Collins she had "the face of a dog."

    He once claimed, "It doesn't really matter what [the media] write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass." He retweeted a follower who asked, "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?" (Trump later deleted the tweet, claiming it was posted by a campaign staffer.)

    And Trump insulted Carly Fiorina by exclaiming, "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!"

    But according to Marcus at the Post, "Bill Clinton's conduct toward women is far worse than any of the offensive things that Trump has said."

    And how many of those ugly examples of Trump sexism were cited in recent coverage of Clinton calling out his sexist behavior? I didn't see many. Meaning, when Clinton denounced Trump's "penchant for sexism," it wasn't really considered news and the press did little to document the Clinton truth. But when Trump responded to Clinton's use of "sexism" (and attacked Bill Clinton's sex life), the press treated that as very big news, and for many days.

    As noted, the current media attention is also being driven by far-right Clinton critics trying to portray the former president as an unrepentant predator. "Right-wing journalists and operatives have been laying the groundwork for an attack on Bill Clinton's sexual history for months," wrote Michelle Goldberg at Slate.

    Even though many right-wing journalists spent 2015 openly mocking rape accusers in the news, they now insist the unproven allegations by Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey prove Clinton's guilt in the 1970s and 1990s.

    Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit, of course, represented a hyper-partisan political orchestration, paid for by deep-pocketed Clinton haters. The case was eventually settled out of court for $850,000, with Clinton making no admission of guilt.

    Broaddrick has claimed that 38 years ago Clinton raped her in a hotel room. Rumors of the alleged attack had swirled around Arkansas for years during Clinton's time as governor there and his enemies tried to get Broaddrick to go public, but she refused. In 1998, Broaddrick signed an affidavit in connection to Jones' lawsuit insisting that the long-rumored rape allegation about Clinton was "untrue."

    The next year she met with FBI investigators working for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, which spent $40 million breathlessly investigating Clinton's private life. Broaddrick changed her story and said the rape allegation was true. That year, Broaddrick went public with her story in an interview with the anti-Clinton Wall Street Journal editorial page.

    Clinton denied the allegation.

    In the end, Starr's office found Broaddrick's story inconclusive and referenced her in a footnote in the evidence it sent to Congress for impeachment.

    "An allegation like this one served mostly as a reminder of the reason behind statues of limitations," wrote Jeffery Toobin in his 1999 impeachment book, A Vast Conspiracy. "Two decades later, it was simply impossible to determine what, if anything, had occurred between these two people."

    Lastly, Willey claimed Clinton groped her in the White House in 1993. Like Broaddrick, Willey cooperated with the independent counsel's Clinton investigation, which was subsequently overseen by Robert Ray. But in the end, Ray gave up on Willey. In his formal report on the Clinton investigations, Ray concluded that Willey had lied to the FBI, therefore she couldn't be used as a witness against Clinton.

    Subsequently, Willey pushed absurd conspiracies that the Clintons killed her husband (as well as burglarized her home), and also killed former White House aide Vince Foster, and possibly her cat.

    But none of that seems to matter much. Trump called Clinton a world-class woman abuser and the press knows the drill, and knows which story it wants to cover.

    Wrapping up his round-table discussion on Sunday about Clinton's 1990s sex life, Fox News' Howard Kurtz announced, "It's obviously an amusing topic for the media, at least for now."


  • Fox News Rewrites History To Blame Bill Clinton For The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox News personalities are attempting to rewrite history in order to shift blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks onto former President Bill Clinton, and away from former President George W. Bush, who GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump recently blamed for the attacks. The historical record shows that the Clinton administration was the first to label terrorism "'a national security issue,'" created a special CIA unit focusing specifically on Osama Bin Laden, and ordered missile attacks against the terrorist leader, while the Bush administration was warned 36 times -- including allegedly by Clinton himself -- about the terrorist threat prior to the attacks.