Marco Rubio's presidential campaign has been using discredited author Ed Klein's dubious reporting in order to raise money. Rubio joins fellow presidential candidates Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee as Republicans who previously cited Klein despite his history of, in the words of fellow journalists, "junk journalism," "fan fiction," "lazy, cut-and-paste recycling," and "serious factual errors, truncated and distorted quotes."
Discredited reporter Ed Klein is back with another book, Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary. Like his previous output, Unlikeable features supposedly insider accounts of conversations and behind-the-scenes dealings of the most powerful politicians in the country. And, like his previous work, the book reads like a conservative fever dream translated into a screenplay.
Klein's previous books -- which have forwarded outlandish smears like the claim that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill raped Hillary -- have been roundly criticized by a wide range of reporters, including many conservatives. His supposed reporting has been labeled "bullshit," "smut," "junk journalism," and "fan fiction." Unlikeable finds Klein living up to his reputation.
Blood Feud, Klein's 2014 book about the supposed war between the Obamas and the Clintons, was reportedly dropped by a HarperCollins imprint because it "did not pass a vetting by in-house lawyers." BuzzFeed additionally reported that HarperCollins had "concerns about the reporting quality." (The book was eventually released by conservative publisher Regnery, which also published Unlikeable.)
Despite his complete lack of credibility, Klein can still rely on certain sections of the conservative media to celebrate his supposed scoops every time he puts out a new book, and Unlikeable has been no different. Klein's new "reporting" has garnered a series of headlines in recent weeks in the New York Post, and Klein himself has been given a platform to promote the book this week on Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Fox Business.
But no matter how badly conservative media might want Klein's latest to ring true, Unlikeable is undermined by dubious sourcing and sloppy research.
For instance, one chapter opens with a quotation supposedly from Obama Senior Adviser (and frequent Klein villain) Valerie Jarrett ominously declaring, "After we win this election, it's our turn. Payback time."
This supposed quote has been bouncing around conservative websites and message boards for years. In 2012, Right Wing Watch tracked down the quotation's questionable origins, and discovered a convoluted series of anonymous sources overhearing other anonymous sources:
[A]n anonymous source supposedly within the Obama campaign supposedly overheard a representative from Jarrett's office make this statement and attributed it to Jarrett herself; it was then passed along to some pseudonymous source named "Wall Street Insider" who then forwarded it to [conservative blog] The Ulsterman Report ... and it eventually ended up on Glenn Beck's radio program where the quote was treated as entirely legitimate.
Fittingly enough, the Ulsterman Report routinely published interviews with anonymous highly-placed sources in the government that didn't pass the smell test.
Even WND, a birth certificate-obsessed conspiracy website not exactly known for high editorial standards, reported of the supposed Jarrett quotation in 2012, "The quote, however, is suspect and is at best four steps removed from Jarrett herself." Meanwhile, Klein, who regularly touts himself as serious reporter, found it compelling enough to use as a chapter header.
In another chapter, Klein's source is allegedly a "well-known cardiologist," who claims to have been asked by Bill Clinton "to review Hillary's medical records." The cardiologist explains in an interview with Klein that politicians often fear doctors will leak their medical information "to the press ... But doctors are discreet." The doctor ("who requested anonymity") then proceeds to talk about Hillary Clinton's supposed ongoing medical problems:
Bill was so concerned that he asked a well-known cardiologist to review Hillary's medical records. After looking over her cardiograms and X-rays and other records, the cardiologist recommended that Hillary travel with a full-time physician who would keep her under constant observation.
"Most politicians are reluctant to be monitored by a doctor because they fear that if the results are leaked to the press, the information might harm their chances of election," the cardiologist said in an interview for this book. "But doctors are discreet. And in Hillary's case, it is very important that she be monitored on a daily basis. Her symptoms-- the fainting-- are very worrisome, especially for someone of her age. I have a lot of experience with political candidates and have seen the toll that the stress of a campaign can take. It's stressful for young candidates, and for older ones like Hillary, it's beyond belief."
As Salon's Simon Maloy (formerly of Media Matters) explained, Klein's "hot scoops" are usually "based on anonymous 'sources' who always happen to be present when the most powerful people in the country cook up their various schemes and conspiracies, and who then provide verbatim details of those highly scandalous conversations exclusively to Ed Klein."
Apparently, the Clintons keep repeatedly inviting these anonymous sources back to intimate dinner parties and important meetings and divulging their deepest secrets to them, thereby allowing Ed Klein to continue publishing books.
Another of Klein's favorite tactics, regularly on display in Unlikeable, is using sources that have simply heard, after the fact, about private conversations they were not present for -- but which they can nonetheless recreate in impressive detail.
In one instance, President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Jarrett have a private conversation in the White House about their supposed hatred of Clinton, which Klein somehow reproduces word-for-word based only on "sources who spoke to Jarrett":
While Jarrett gave her briefing, the president paced, his head bowed, deep in thought. Jarrett was happy to see Hillary in trouble. Obama wasn't so sure. He felt a great deal of animosity toward both Clintons, and he smiled when Jarrett told him of Hillary's latest travails, but he didn't want to see the Democratic Party lose the White House.
"It's all her own fault," he repeated over and over, according to sources who spoke to Jarrett. "Bill should have advised her better. He should have made her goddamn behave, follow the rules."
Barack plopped down in a chair and let out a sigh.
"Dumb, dumb, dumb," he said. "Just goddamn dumb." (emphasis added)
BuzzFeed's Katherine Miller mocked the many absurd passages in Klein's last book Blood Feud -- highlights include Hillary Clinton swirling a glass of wine and saying of Obama to her old college friends, "You can't trust the motherfucker." Miller described Klein's book as reading "like stilted fan fiction, featuring dialogue that no human has likely said or will probably ever say until you read it aloud to friends and family."
Unlikeable continues the trend. In the below scene, President Obama and Hillary Clinton argue in the Oval Office about Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state:
But before Jarrett could intercede, Obama spun around and looked directly at Hillary.
"There is nothing I can do one way or the other," he said. "Things have been set in motion, and I can't and won't interfere. Your problems are, frankly, of your own making. If you had been honest. . . ."
Hillary interrupted him.
"There are always haters out to get the Clintons," she said. (emphasis added)
While Obama gets to sound like a Bond villain, Clinton has a habit of violently clearing off desks in fits of rage. An unnamed "Foreign Service Officer" tells Klein that "after a telephone argument with President Obama, she took her right arm and cleared off her small working desk, sending pictures, glasses, everything crashing to the floor."
A few chapters later, Clinton does the same thing to her husband's desk:
"You've thrown us in the crap again!" she screamed. "I've never been this pissed off at you! I don't think you really want me to be president."
Bill looked up over the rim of his eyeglasses, which were perched on the tip of his nose.
"Calm down," he said.
His air of nonchalance only made Hillary angrier, and with a sweeping motion of her arm, she shoved everything off the top of his desk, sending papers and an expensive piece of Chihuly blown glass flying onto the floor.
"Jesus!" Bill said.
He got up to retrieve the Chihuly sculpture, which fortunately wasn't damaged. He put it carefully back on his desk. He had one of the largest private collections of Chihuly glass in the country.
"You don't care about anything but that fucking piece of glass," Hillary said. (emphasis added)
Clinton also sends a water glass flying across her office in a fit of rage (according to the unnamed "Foreign Service officer," who saw it "with my own eyes").
Unlikeable finishes with a strange and out-of-nowhere epilogue that issues dire warnings about the "new normal" in America. According to him, "long-accepted standards and codes of behavior" have been turned "upside down." Features that are "unacceptable," "abnormal," and make America "coarser" apparently include:
Support for same-sex marriage has doubled over the past decade to 60 percent.
In less than thirty years non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up a majority of Americans.
Bruce Jenner, once the picture of masculinity, is canonized for being castrated.
The average American woman now weighs the same as the average American man did in the 1960s.
He concludes: "Conservatives rightly fear that decadence will lead to the fall of the United States just as surely as it led to the fall of Rome."
Klein's "fan fiction" perfectly follows conservative mythology -- down to the very last page.
From the September 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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No serious news outlet should trust anything from purported reporter Ed Klein and his new book Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary. Media Matters has compiled remarks from more than 30 reporters from a wide range of outlets who have found major problems with Klein's work. Media figures have called Klein's work "junk journalism," "devoid of credibility," "suspect," "fan fiction," "lazy, cut-and-paste recycling," "strewn with serious factual errors, truncated and distorted quotes," "thoroughly discredited," "smut," "sordid," "poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced," and "bullshit."
From the August 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News hosted discredited conspiracy theorist and widely criticized author Ed Klein to kick off the weekend that Hillary Clinton reportedly will announce her candidacy for president.
Numerous reports announced during the day on April 10 that Clinton will officially launch her campaign on Sunday, April 12. Fox News kicked off the announcement by hosting Edward Klein on the April 10 edition of Fox News' Hannity.
Hannity responded to reports that Clinton is set to announce a presidential campaign by hyping Klein's roundly criticized, imaginary Obama-Clinton feud, stating, "the Obamas and the Clintons, as you have chronicled, they hate each other." Klein used this appearance to push his conspiracy theory that White House adviser Valerie Jarrett leaked the Hillary Clinton email story to the media.
Klein's The Truth About Hillary was widely mocked; it claimed based on anonymous sources that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill Clinton raped his wife, and floated the "rumor" that Hillary Clinton may be a lesbian.
As The Washington Post's Jaime Fuller has noted, a "defining characteristic of Klein's biographies ... is that the salacious details revealed often have a tenuous relationship with reality -- as commentators of all ideological stripes have pointed out time and time again."
Discredited journalist Ed Klein is pushing a dubious conspiracy theory that White House adviser Valerie Jarrett leaked the Hillary Clinton email story to the media, an anonymously sourced allegation that's giving Klein renewed attention in the pages and on the airwaves of the right-wing press.
Earlier this month, a flawed New York Times report sensationalized the fact that as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton used a personal email address to conduct State Department business.
Klein is now positing that Jarrett "leaked" the story to the press, as he writes in a March 16 column in the New York Post. Klein cites anonymous "members of Bill Clinton's camp" and a nameless "source close to the White House" to come to the conclusion that the Obama administration is deliberately trying to "sabotage" the possible presidential ambitions of Obama's former secretary of state.
His conspiracy theory was given a platform across the full spectrum of conservative media, which called it "explosive" and "reveal[ing]." Fox News featured several segments on Klein's theory and even hosted him on the set of Fox & Friends earlier this month to hype his "bombshell claim."
Conservative media continue to afford Klein credibility despite a resume riddled with lies and discredited writing.
A few of his greatest hits:
In a 2010 entry in The Huffington Post, Klein detailed President Obama's "humiliation" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, claiming that sources told him of Obama leaving during a meeting with Netenyahu to have dinner with Michelle and their two daughters. One phone call would have revealed that to be impossible, since Michelle, Sasha and Malia were all in New York City at the time."
Klein's latest claims come fresh off the heels of his 2014 book, Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas. Blood Feud was roundly ridiculed for its sourcing problems and unlikely anecdotes, even by Fox figures like Megyn Kelly and Brian Kilmeade.
If the conservative site Washington Free Beacon is still paying a Republican opposition research firm $150,000 a year to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton, editors might want to renegotiate their contract. Because if Free Beacon's latest installation of its deep-dive into Clinton's past is any indication, GOP investigators have already run out of leads.
The Free Beacon news flash? Back in 1971, Hillary Clinton (then Hillary Rodham) corresponded twice with Saul Alinsky, a liberal organizer and activist of renown in the 1930s, `40s and `50s. More recently, Alinsky's been immortalized as a bogeyman by conservatives who for years have waged a fruitless campaign to portray President Barack Obama as a radical-left acolyte of Alinsky's.
And now the brief Clinton correspondence from more than 40 years ago is being trumpeted: "The letters obtained by the Free Beacon suggest that Clinton experimented more with radical politics during her law school years than she has publicly acknowledged." (Wait, Clinton's a secret commie who's also tight with Wall Street? Very confusing.)
Some conservatives on Monday strained to explain why any of this matters, and why their weird, hard-to-understand obsession with someone like Alinsky ought to be of importance in American politics today. The Free Beacon's meaningless revelation set off lots of Twitter chuckling, but the story itself went nowhere, much to the dismay of Rush Limbaugh, and for good reason: There's no there there. (Favorite line: Hillary's letters were "paid for with stamps featuring Franklin Delano Roosevelt.")
Keep in mind the attempts to attack Clinton by invoking Alinsky are nothing new. Back during the 2008 presidential campaign, conservatives tried to make hay out of the fact that Clinton had written a senior thesis about the author.
After the story failed to make an impact outside the conservative bubble, a Free Beacon editor claimed the article was never meant as a Hillary gotcha. Instead, they were simply sharing "primary documents" with voters. I guess that's one way to spin a swing-and-a-miss.
The whiff highlights what's becoming a growing problem for the right-wing media industry: After operating under the microscope during her thirty-year public career, there's not much about Hillary Clinton we don't know or that hasn't been dissected. And there's probably not much more that we're going to learn in the coming years, considering that trolling the Clintons has been an established far-right cottage industry that dates back to the early 1990s.
Based on three decades in the spotlight as a governor's wife, the first lady, a U.S. senator, presidential candidate and then secretary of state, there's simply no other public figure active in the U.S. political arena today (possibly other than the one who currently occupies the Oval Office) who's been more scrutinized by the media, who's endured more "scandal" coverage, who has been thoroughly trashed by the partisan press opponents, and who still comes out the other side marching on.
So now what?
If Hillary dominates the political landscape in the coming election cycle, how does the right-wing media pretend they're uncovering all kinds of new and startling facts about her past, her policies, her influences and her alliances? How does detailing a couple of letters Clinton wrote to a labor organizer 43 years ago fill the right-wing media need for fresh, new, and scary Clinton revelations?
Three recent or upcoming books highlight the way an anti-Clinton cottage industry is trying to manipulate media vulnerabilities to smear Hillary and Bill Clinton.
This summer will see the publication of Daniel Halper's Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, Edward Klein's Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, and Ronald Kessler's The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of Presidents. Rush Limbaugh discussed all three books one after the other on July 22, commenting, "Do we really want to hand the country over to these people?"
While these books are catnip for Limbaugh and Fox News, all three should give credible media outlets reason to pause before amplifying their anecdotes.
Weekly Standard online editor Daniel Halper is currently making the media rounds to promote Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, which was published July 22 and seeks to "expose" the inner workings of the Clintons' "political machine" and their "unquenchable thirst for wealth and power." He has already appeared for interviews on his publisher's corporate cousin Fox News (on The Kelly File and Fox & Friends) to promote the book, which has been deemed the "'must buy' book of the summer" by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt and recommended by Karl Rove as the "next summer read."
Halper's book characterizes the Clintons as "dueling CEOs" whose primary goal is to make the Clinton "brand" profitable and politically powerful. He largely focuses on the well-trod period starting with Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign up to the present, with flashbacks to earlier periods in the Clintons' lives. Clinton, Inc.'s extended business metaphor barely holds together what is essentially a series of unrelated anecdotes and tired conservative tropes (as one critic points out, a right-wing author describing the Clintons as "calculating" does not make for a "groundbreaking revelation"). Many of his questionable anecdotes are provided anonymously -- "out of fear of retribution or attack from ruthless Clinton aides," according to Halper.
For example, Halper promotes a confusing, poorly-sourced, anonymous account to accuse former President Clinton of attempted rape. Halper claims he received exclusive access to never-before-seen documents about the Clintons collected by unnamed "investigators, attorneys, and other Lewinsky advisors" in the 1990s. Halper says that one of "the more promising and detailed nuggets" collected by the Lewinsky team is an allegation that Bill Clinton attempted to assault an unnamed woman near San Francisco in the 1970s. But the allegation does not come from the woman herself, who Halper says never pressed charges. It's based on claims from a "friend" of the woman, who is also unnamed. Halper's third-hand account doesn't explain when or how the unnamed friend became aware of the allegation, whether they had ever relayed the story to anyone other than a Lewinsky representative decades after the alleged crime, or why the Lewinsky team didn't follow up on the story. Nor does he indicate that he made any effort whatsoever to follow up on the claim himself -- even to determine whether the woman exists.
In another instance, Halper seeks to make the case that something happened to Hillary Clinton other than what her doctors told the public in December 2012 -- that she took a fall as the result of severe dehydration from a stomach bug, suffered a concussion, and was hospitalized for a blood clot in the brain, causing her to delay testifying to Congress about the Benghazi terrorist attacks. First, Halper baselessly posits that Clinton may have hit her head after falling down drunk. Invoking a "rumor" from "bloggers and websites" that Clinton drinks heavily, Halper points to "one well-known Clinton hater" for the claim the injury was the result of drinking -- citing no names. He then offers a contrary interpretation, writing that Clinton may have had a stroke but covered it up. He attributes this, variously, to "a number of reporters," "some on the right," "others," "reporters," and "one veteran reporter" -- not one of them named. Amid this discussion he concedes that "the revelation" may be untrue after all.
From the July 11 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Despite being exposed as a self-promoting smear peddler after having his work repeatedly debunked, discredited author and conspiracy theorist Ed Klein has been repeatedly given a platform by many in the right-wing media. Here are the top five reasons the media should not trust Klein's shoddy work.
From the June 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
From the June 23 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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*Update: Later in the day, Rush Limbaugh also expressed skepticism about Klein's reporting.
Ed Klein, the utterly discredited "reporter" who once forwarded an allegation that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill raped Hillary, is back once again with a new book. Though his credibility is completely beyond repair after years of trafficking in lazy inaccuracies and salacious gossip, Klein is once again getting a boost from some conservative media outlets.
In Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, Klein details the "personal animosity" and "the jealousy and antipathy that divides the two most powerful Democratic families in the country." If that sounds like the kind of book that conservative daydreams are made of, you're not far off. Klein's books are basically designed as a series of pre-packaged headlines for the Drudge Report (indeed, a supposed Klein scoop from Blood Feud about Hillary Clinton's purported terrible state of health is leading Drudge's site as of this writing).
Inevitably -- as they do with every Klein book, despite clear concerns about his credibility -- Fox News is devoting airtime to one of Klein's big new scoops. But Klein's sourcing is so sketchy that even Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade is calling foul.
On the June 23 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts broadcast Klein's allegation -- which was also reprinted in the New York Post -- that President Obama forced then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to blame the Benghazi attacks on a spontaneous demonstration rather than a terrorist attack, despite her better judgment.
According to Klein, Obama called Clinton the night of the attack to issue the directive. She then allegedly called her husband and discussed "various doomsday scenarios," including her potential resignation.
Quoting from Klein's book, Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck recounted alleged lines from the conversation between Bill and Hillary Clinton, wherein the former president lamented how Obama "isn't going to allow anyone to say that terrorism has occurred on his watch."
This too-good-to-be-true sourcing -- which, it should be noted, is the defining characteristic of everything Ed Klein writes -- was called out by Brian Kilmeade, who asked, "Now, who is his source? Chelsea? I mean, how would you possibly get in between them?"
Doocy answered, "According to the book, it is one of Hillary Clinton's legal advisers gave this information to Mr. Klein."
The Fox hosts threw more cold water on Klein's story, citing conservative activist and former Republican congressional candidate Kenneth Timmerman to explain that the timing of Klein's storyline makes no sense. Rather than blame Klein's shoddy reporting, Doocy instead cited Timmerman to explain, "The reason the people reached out to Ed Klein and are pushing this fake story is simply to preserve and save her chance to run for president." (Salon writer and former Media Matters employee Simon Maloy further lays out how Klein's Benghazi report is nonsensical and botches basic details.)
Klein has a history of shoddy work that has been repeatedly called out by conservative commentators, but he nonetheless gets free promotion from conservative outlets when he releases new books.
Earlier this week Fox News hosted the "professional dirty trickster" who founded an anti-Hillary Clinton group with the acronym "C.U.N.T." The day before, it was the attorney who pushed fabricated anti-Clinton stories in the 90s. Last month, it was the woman who has suggested the Clintons may have had her husband killed.
Fox has never had particularly high standards for who they put on air, and it appears there's no source too incredible for Fox to host as long as they are willing to smear the Clintons. And that list is long.
As Joe Conason and Gene Lyons detailed in their book The Hunting of the President, in the 1990s, an array of conservative operatives, right-wing journalists, and opportunists sought to drive the Clintons from the White House. Their backgrounds were often shady, their methods deceitful, and their claims fraudulent.
So who might be the next guest for a network with no standards and an urge to stop a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run? Some of these figures have gone on to extensive careers in the conservative media, while others haven't been in the public eye for decades.
But all have literally unbelievable stories to tell.
Gary Aldrich is a former FBI agent who wrote a 1996 book about his time inside the White House during the first three years of the Clinton administration. CNN described the book, produced by a right-wing publisher and flacked by a Republican operative, as filled with "second-hand, unsubstantiated sexual rumors about and bitter attacks against President and Mrs. Clinton," including ludicrous claims that President Clinton was regularly ditching his Secret Service detail for trysts at a downtown hotel (Aldrich later said that allegation was a "hypothetical"). Aldrich also wrote that on "orders from the First Lady's Office," the White House Christmas tree was decorated with crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia as well as sex toys and condoms (unsurprisingly, the White House denied the charge).
Aldrich used the notoriety from his book to become a professional conservative. He founded the right-wing Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty in 1997 to support federal whistleblowers (Linda Tripp was among the organization's first clients), but the bulk of the group's spending soon focused on raising money and paying Aldrich's salary. The group was largely silent during the Bush administration, but re-emerged to support tea party groups in 2010. Aldrich has written op-eds for TownHall and the Daily Caller.
Larry Nichols spent years at the heart of the conservative campaign to smear President Clinton. A former jingle writer who became a marketing consultant for the State of Arkansas, he was fired from the Arkansas Development Finance Authority in 1988 for making hundreds of phone calls to Nicaragua contra leaders and their American political supporters on the taxpayer's dime, and apparently held a grudge. Shortly before Bill Clinton's 1990 re-election as governor of Arkansas, Nichols held a press conference announcing he was suing Clinton for allegedly using state funds to conduct affairs with five women. All five women subsequently signed affidavits denying the claims and threatened to sue Nichols, who later issued a statement saying he had wrongfully issued the accusations because he was mad about being fired. But the incident nonetheless ushered in the right-wing focus on Bill Clinton's sex life.
Nichols, who described himself as "smut central" in a 1998 interview, spent years tracking down sketchy rumors about women who had had affairs with the president and trying to peddle them to everyone from supermarket tabloids to major newspapers. Last year, he offered a new explanation for why he had spent years trying to destroy the Clintons -- he claimed to have "beat up women and beat up husbands to protect the Clintons" and even "killed people" for them for money until they turned on him and he had to defend himself.