Sunday, October 21, 2007

RNC is Hunting Hillary Clinton

In an October 18 fundraising solicitation, Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan cited an October 16 article in The Hill to claim: "If you needed further proof that Hillary Clinton will do anything to win, a Capitol Hill newspaper is now reporting that she eavesdropped on Bill's political opponents during his time as Governor of Arkansas." In fact, The Hill did not "now" report that Hillary Clinton "eavesdropped" on her husband's political opponents. Rather, in the Hill article, headlined "GOP targeting Clinton on phone-call snooping," Alexander Bolton reported that "Republicans are focusing on an allegation in a recent book by two Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters, which suggests Clinton listened to a secretly recorded conversation between political opponents." The allegation -- which was sourced to an "[a]uthor interview with former campaign aide present at the tape playing in 2006" -- was first made by co-authors Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. in their book Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Little, Brown, & Co.), published in June. Contrary to the RNC's claim, the allegation was not made "now" and it was not made by The Hill, which simply reported that Her Way alleges this and did not provide any independent confirmation that the eavesdropping allegation is true. As Media Matters for America has noted, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson said on October 16, "This story is categorically untrue."

Politico reporter Ben Smith noted the RNC fundraising solicitation in an October 18 blog post. Quoting the RNC's claim that "a Capitol Hill newspaper is now reporting that she [Hillary Clinton] eavesdropped on Bill's political opponents during his time as Governor of Arkansas," Smith wrote, "Well, not really." He also wrote, "The allegation was reported in passing, and without a named source, in Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta's recent Hillary bio. I'm not sure about other reporters; it caught my eye, and I tried and failed to confirm it with veterans of that campaign. Anyway, it's not really sourced in a way that it could stand on its own, and got scant coverage when the book came out this summer."

As Media Matters for America documented, on October 16, the RNC and state Republicanorganizations highlighted the Hill article, and the Arkansas Republican Party issued a press release that "called on State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to investigate the fact that New York Senator Hillary Clinton may have eavesdropped and recorded political opponents' telephone conversations while her husband was Governor of Arkansas."

As Media Matters noted, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (subscription required) on October 17 legal impediments to the Arkansas Republican Party's effort to have McDaniel investigate Clinton's purported eavesdropping. According to the Democrat-Gazette, "There were at least two problems with the complaint, however. The law that [Arkansas] GOP Chairman Dennis Milligan said that now-U.S. Sen. Clinton of New York may have violated [during her husband's 1992 presidential campaign] wasn't on the books until 1993. And the complaint was filed 14 years too late."

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