Deception & Misdirection

Hillary’s big little lie


[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

Hillary Clinton has now entered the presidential race for 2016.

As the writer of a weekly piece on lying in politics, I say: Thank you, Hillary!

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Listing all of Hillary’s lies over the years would require more space than they have here on the Internet, so I’ll focus on one from her famous interview with Matt Lauer on the “Today” show, January 28, 1998. It’s just a teeny little lie, but it’s one of my favorite Hillary lies because I was the reporter who discovered it, and because it turns out now not to be so little after all.

If you lived through the Monica Lewinsky scandal—the frantic effort, organized by the Clintons, to cover up President Clinton’s perjury in a sexual harassment cause—you’re probably sick of all the details. If you’re too young to remember, you may not know much about it. To understand the point of this article, you need to know a few details; I’ll try to make this as painless as possible.

Let’s start with a Politico story that marked the anniversary of when the Lewinsky story broke on the Drudge Report.

Drudge says Newsweek sitting on Lewinsky story, Jan. 17, 1998

By ANDREW GLASS | 1/17/13 4:45 AM EST

On this day in 1998, the Drudge Report carried an item on its website alleging that Newsweek magazine was sitting on a story exposing an affair between President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year-old White House intern.

Ten days later, Clinton, with his wife beside him, told reporters: “… I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you.” . . .

Got that? The original story broke on Saturday, January 17, 1998.

Here’s what happened afterward, as recounted in the Boston Globe:

The Boston Globe, Thursday, January 22, 1998

The Drudge Report’s scandalous scoop
By Mark Jurkowitz

Love him or hate him, you have to chalk one up for Matt Drudge. The on-line gossip / journalist, who has infuriated the White House, provoked a $30 million libel suit from Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, and sparked a debate over journalistic standards in cyberspace, lit the fuse that exploded into the stunning revelation that former White House intern Monica Lewinsky was at the heart of a dramatic new Bill Clinton scandal.

Most of the world learned this yesterday [Wednesday, January 21, 1998] when The Washington Post broke the story that Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr was investigating whether the White House encouraged the 24-year-old former intern to lie about an alleged affair she had with the president. (The White House has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.) But that was several days after Drudge published details on his infamous Drudge Report Web site (www.drudgereport.com). A cocky 31-year-old Californian with a knack for self-promotion, Drudge has become a darling in conservative circles. However, he views himself not as an ideological crusader, but as a sharp thorn in the underbelly of the mainstream media. He says he is engaged in a bitter “turf war with the establishment press that has gotten too cozy with the people they cover.”

“I’ve maintained that the White House is uncomfortable with independent reporting” outside the Beltway loop, Drudge said yesterday. “I think the Internet’s going to lead the way in reporting this story.”

Whatever one thinks of Drudge – and he has amassed his share of equally fervent critics and fans – the Lewinsky saga is a textbook case of bubble-up journalism in an era in which media gatekeepers are readily bypassed and a supermarket tabloid headline can metamorphose into an episode of “Nightline” in the blink of an eye (as was the case with the Gennifer Flowers story in 1992).

In a series of reports that began Saturday night [January 17], Drudge alleged that Newsweek magazine had “killed” a story about a White House intern that was “destined to shake official Washington to its foundation.” Constantly updating the report, he later published Lewinsky’s name, her resume, and the information that she had denied any sexual relationship with Clinton in an affidavit filed in connection with the Paula Jones case. Last night, Newsweek took the extraordinary step of releasing its eagerly anticipated Lewinsky story on its AOL site. It revealed that its reporter Michael Isikoff had been aware of allegations of a sexual relationship between Clinton and Lewinsky “for nearly a year.” But the magazine held the article last weekend because it “did not have enough time for sufficient independent reporting on Lewinsky . . . and in hopes of learning more about the truth by not interfering with Starr’s probe at a critical juncture.”

And it was Drudge’s dredging that triggered the game of media dominoes. On ABC’s Sunday morning program “This Week With Sam and Cokie” [January 18], conservative commentator Bill Kristol tried to raise the issue, noting that Newsweek magazine had decided not to go with the intern story. He was quickly countered by former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos, who said dismissively: “And Bill, where did it come from? The Drudge Report. You know we’ve all seen how discredited . . .”

But by then, the genie was out of the bottle. On Monday [January 19, 1998], The Washington Post commented on the brief ABC discussion about Newsweek killing the intern expose. That same day, the topic was discussed on the CNBC show “Equal Time” and mentioned on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club.” By Tuesday [January 20], the staunchly conservative Manchester Union Leader was editorializing about another Clinton “Bimbo eruption,” citing Drudge’s reporting. In a sure sign that the matter was simmering near the surface, Tuesday’s White House press briefing involved an exchange between Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry and ABC’s Sam Donaldson that began when Donaldson asked whether the administration had put out the word that staffers were not allowed to log on to the Drudge Report. And under the telling headline “Feeding The Frenzy,” Tuesday’s version of The Hotline – an electronic political newsletter – reported on the media outlets that had regurgitated Drudge’s allegations.

“Yeah, we struggled with it,” said Hotline editor in chief Craig Crawford, about the decision to publicize the Drudge story, which had not been independently confirmed. “It has been interesting to see how it’s been handled.”

 

Got that? The story broke on the Drudge Report January 17; was discussed on ABC’s Sunday interview show January 18 (by, among others, former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos); was mentioned January 19 in the Washington Post, on NBC’s sister network CNBC, and on the Christian Broadcasting Network; and, by January 20, showed up in the influential Manchester Union Leader and in the political newsletter The Hotline (which, at the time, was read by a high percentage of people who worked in Washington politics). That day, January 20, the Lewinsky scandal was the subject of “an exchange” involving the White House press secretary and Sam Donaldson, the ABC News White House correspondent.

January 27, ten days later after the story broke on the Drudge Report, President Clinton made his famous statement that “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time.” (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV6yhEbEw9c, at the 6:18 point.) Of course, we now know that both those claims were false.

On Wednesday, January 28, the First Lady appeared on the “Today” show in an interview with Matt Lauer. (I was hoping to direct you to the video of the interview, at http://www.today.com/video/today/45898725. But I can’t, because the video has disappeared from the “Today” website. If you google Hillary+Lauer or Hillary+1998 or Hillary+Today for videos, it pops up as one of the top choices—or did as of yesterday afternoon—yet it’s gone. Oh well. I’m sure there’s an innocent explanation, one totally unrelated to NBC’s all-out support for her presidential campaign.)

As you read the excerpts below, keep in mind that the story we were supposed to believe was that the President was framed, and that Lewinsky was working in the service of, as Hillary would characterize it, a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” (In response to reports about a dress stained with DNA evidence, Clintonites in the media put out the word that the dress was mythical, a fantasy created by that same vast conspiracy. A journalism magazine, Brill’s Content, featured a cover story to that effect. Of course, we now know that the dress existed.)

A few details to keep in mind:

►As the Clinton-Lewinsky affair developed, White House staffers, including some close to Hillary, had expressed concern over the relationship. To get Lewinsky out of the White House, she was sent over to the Pentagon, where, on the organizational chart, her name was listed in the #27 position.

►Later—based, I’m sure, on her record of professional achievement—she was offered jobs at the United Nations and at the politically-connected company Revlon, and she took the latter. (Yes, this is the poor Monica Lewinsky now held up in the media as a victim of “cyber-bullying.” How she fits into that category, no one knows.) The New York Times reported: “She got the [Revlon] job at nearly the same time she signed an affidavit saying she had not had sexual relations with Clinton.” (A common technique used by the Clintons to cover up Bill’s scandals was to pressure a woman to sign a statement claiming that nothing untoward had happened. If she ever told the truth, the signed statement could be used to make her out to be a liar.) The Revlon job, by the way, was arranged by Washington power broker Vernon Jordan, who later claimed not to remember having lunch with the woman who was the President’s mistress to discuss getting her a job.

As the Washington Post reported on February 20, 1998 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/jordan022098.htm ):

For Lewinsky, Jordan called three companies, had lunch and three other meetings with her and spoke to her on the phone seven times between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12, a source familiar with the matter told The Post this week.

Jordan helped arrange for Lewinsky a job offer and a lawyer at a time when her testimony was crucial to President Clinton. He drove her to the lawyer’s office and has said he talked with her about whether she was having an affair with Clinton. Lewinsky swore out an affidavit denying she had sex with Clinton, and a day later, Jordan called the chairman of Revlon and helped her get a job, The Post has reported.

With that background, read this transcript. See if you notice anything.

 

HILLARY CLINTON INTERVIEW WITH MATT LAUER, TODAY SHOW, JANUARY 28, 1998

LAUER: . . . let me just ask you, do you know Monica Lewinsky?
CLINTON: No.
LAUER: You’ve never met her?
CLINTON: I may have. You know, there are hundreds and hundreds of young people who serve as interns, and we have big events for them. We take pictures with them. But unless they work directly in my office, I’m not likely to meet them.
LAUER: Did Evelyn Lieberman, the former deputy chief of staff, or any other White House staffers, Mrs. Clinton, ever come to you and say, we may have a problem with one of the interns at the White House, and mention Monica Lewinsky by name?
CLINTON: No, that never happened.
LAUER: So these charges came as big a shock to you as anyone?
CLINTON: And to my husband. I mean, he woke me up Wednesday morning and said, you’re not going to believe this, but—and I said, “What is this?” So yes, it came as a very big surprise.
LAUER: When he said “but,” he said “but” what?
CLINTON: But I want to tell you what’s in the newspapers.
LAUER: I think the part of this that makes certain people across the country uneasy is that we have a 21-year-old intern at the White House who moves to the Pentagon, who then gets a job interview at the UN with [UN Ambassador] Bill Richardson himself. And then a very dear friend of your husband, Vernon Jordan, recommends her for two jobs in this city here in New York and then drives her personally to a lawyer’s office when she’s subpoenaed by Kenneth Starr.
Does it not appear, though, that this intern had more clout in Washington than most others do?
CLINTON: I don’t know the circumstances of any of that, Matt. I think that—you know, I just can’t describe to you how outgoing and friendly Vernon Jordan is. I mean, when he stood up and said what I believe to be the absolute truth, that he has helped literally hundreds of people—and it doesn’t matter who they are. And if he were asked to help somebody, he would help that person. I’ve seen him do it countless times.

. . .

CLINTON: It’s not being numb so much as just being very experienced in the unfortunate, mean-spirited give-and-take of American politics right now. So having seen so many of these accusations come and go, having seen people profit, you know, like Jerry Falwell, with videos, accusing my husband of murder, of drug running, seeing some of the things that are written and said about him, my attitude is, you know, we’ve been there before, we have seen this before. And I am just going to wait patiently until the truth comes out.
LAUER: So if what you have heard is something you can believe and if what the president has told the nation is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then you’d have to agree that this is the worst and most damaging smear of the 20th century?
CLINTON: Well, I don’t know. There have been a lot of smears in the 20th century. But it’s a pretty bad one.
LAUER: Pretty devastating.

. . .

CLINTON: This is—the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it. But it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. And actually, you know, in a bizarre sort of way, this may do it.
LAUER: Has your husband, though, through some of his actions possibly made it easier for those people to attack him?
CLINTON: You know, Matt, that’s a tough question, because I can remember in Bill’s very first race in 1974, there was a great effort against him then. One of the funniest things that ever happened, although at the time it wasn’t funny, is that the people who were against him claim he had been up in a tree demonstrating against President Nixon during a Texas-Arkansas football game in 1969. It didn’t matter that he was in England at the very day listening to the game on short-wave radio.
They took a picture out of a newspaper. They cut the head off the man who was in the tree. They put Bill Clinton’s head on it. They printed thousands of them. They passed them out in every country church and every country store so you had hundreds and thousands of people believing this.
Now, I have to say, I don’t know what it is about my husband that generates such hostility, but I have seen it for 25 years.
LAUER: Let me take you and your husband out of this for a second. Bill and Hillary Clinton aren’t involved in this story. If an American president had an adulterous liaison in the White House and lied to cover it up, should the American people ask for his resignation?
CLINTON: Well, they should certainly be concerned about it.
LAUER: Should they ask for his resignation?
CLINTON: Well, I think that—if all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true. I think we’re going to find some other things. And I think that when all of this is put into context, and we really look at the people involved here, look at their motivations and look at their backgrounds, look at their past behavior, some folks are going to have a lot to answer for.

As the world knows, it was proven true.

Now, I suppose it’s possible that all the people involved up to that point in covering up the scandal, and getting Monica jobs at places like the Pentagon and the United Nations, kept their mouths shut and never mentioned it to Hillary. I suppose it’s possible that she wasn’t lying about every important point in her interview with Matt Lauer.

Except for that one thing, that one claim she made that was impossible.

Did you catch it?

LAUER: So these charges came as big a shock to you as anyone?
CLINTON: And to my husband. I mean, he woke me up Wednesday morning and said, you’re not going to believe this, but—and I said, “What is this?” So yes, it came as a very big surprise.
LAUER: When he said “but,” he said “but” what?
CLINTON: But I want to tell you what’s in the newspapers.

The interview was on a Wednesday, so we can presume that, by “Wednesday morning,” she meant the previous Wednesday, January 21.

Her husband woke her up that morning to tell her about the big surprise that was appearing in the newspapers. It came as a shock, a big surprise, to both of them…

…the story that had appeared on the Drudge Report Saturday… then on ABC’s #1 weekend news program (featuring a former Clinton aide) Sunday… then in the Washington Post, on CNBC, and on CBN Monday… then in a nationally known newspaper and in DC’s top political newsletter Tuesday, followed the same day by an exchange about the story between an ABC News correspondent and the White House press secretary…

…and, the following morning, Bill woke up Hillary to tell her about the big surprise appearing that morning in the rest of the nation’s news media.

Yeah, right.

Think about that. Hillary’s alibi—the basis for her image as the “wronged woman,” the sympathy-evoking image that got her a U.S. Senate seat and put her in position to seek higher office—was that she didn’t know about Monica before the scandal broke, and, therefore, couldn’t have been a part of the perjurious conspiracy swirling about her. She was a naïf who fell for the lies of her despicable husband, not a Lady Macbeth scheming to cover up his lies, his abuse of power, and his serial abuse of women over whom he had power. (If you don’t know what I mean by that last reference, google Gracen+Perdue+Flowers+Jones+Willey.)

Everything depends on the presumption of her innocence in the Lewinsky scandal. If she was involved, she’s as guilty of abusing women as the husband she protected and enabled.

Yet we know that, in her very first interview about the scandal, she made up the part about how she learned of the scandal.

It’s probably going to be a long campaign. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to be lied to by Hillary Clinton and her sycophants. But that long-ago lie about when she learned of Monica is one that reveals a lot about Hillary Clinton’s relationship with the truth.

Dr. Steven J. Allen

Dr. Allen heads CRC’s investigative unit, writes a series exposing political deception, and covers labor unions and environmental groups. He previously served as press secretary to U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton, as editor…
+ More by Dr. Steven J. Allen

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