In recent days, a forthcoming book about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) titled The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President has gotten free advance publicity in major newspapers and on cable television, with several media outlets and figures already speculating -- some five months before the book is to be available -- that it will damage Clinton's much-speculated-about, but undeclared, presidential campaign.
On April 11, Internet gossip Matt Drudge (who once famously said "Screw journalism! The whole thing's a fraud anyway") posted an "**Exclusive**" calling the book "the ultimate Hillary-attack." Drudge claimed that a "source close to" author Edward Klein told him "The revelations in it should sink her candidacy."
The next day, The Washington Times devoted nearly 500 words to the book-in-the-making, claiming that a "new book could prove a roadblock to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's possible run for the White House in 2008 by promising revelations about the New York Democrat that could cast doubt among voters." Times reporter Jennifer Harper wondered, "So, could the book bring down Mrs. Clinton's candidacy before it begins?"
That evening, on MSNBC's Scarborough Country, host Joe Scarborough teased a segment on the book, which he hasn't read, by saying: "Its contents are top-secret, but the sources say the revelations inside could torpedo Hillary Clinton's chances at a run at the White House." He later added, "A lot of people believe a new book, which promises to be a tell-all about Hillary Clinton, will stop her in 2008." Though there is no indication the book is even finished yet, and won't be in bookstores until fall, Scarborough noted that it is "already raising eyebrows across the country." Scarborough didn't give any indication of how the unavailable-but-eyebrow-raising book might "stop" Clinton; in fact, he acknowledged that "[s]ince she has been in the U.S. Senate," Clinton has "played it pretty clean."
Also on April 12, Fox News' Hannity & Colmes hosted Fox News analyst and serial Clinton-basher Dick Morris, whose false attacks on Sen. Clinton have included a grossly inaccurate book and promotional tour. Morris discussed Clinton in a segment headlined "What Might Be in Damaging New Hillary Book?"
"News" of book has also appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Daily News, the Kansas City Star, and elsewhere.
But while there is widespread talk of how "damaging" the book will be, how it may "torpedo" Clinton's potential campaign, few details have emerged -- presumably because, it's worth noting again, the book won't be available until September.
So what do we actually know about The Truth About Hillary?
The Truth About Hillary is being published by Sentinel, a two-year-old conservative imprint of the Penguin Putnam publishing house. According to The Washington Times, sales materials produced by the publisher claim: "Just as the Swift Boat Veterans convinced millions of voters that John Kerry lacked the character to be president, Klein's book will influence everyone who is sizing up the character of Hillary Clinton." Similarly, the New York Post reported on April 12 that Sentinel spokesperson Will Weisser "said he hoped that The Truth About Hillary would do to Clinton what the Swift Boat Veterans bestseller did to Kerry. 'That would be our fondest wish,' he said, before adding, 'We're just trying to sell books. It will be up to the voters to read the book and decide for themselves about Senator Clinton. We're not out to get anyone, per se."
The comparison to the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is significant for at least two reasons. First, the SBVT were explicitly formed to defeat John Kerry's presidential campaign; thus, the publisher's comparison of the book to the Swift Boat group reveals the book to be little more than a partisan political tool designed to influence an election. But the comparison is also telling because, as Media Matters for America and others extensively documented, the SBVT repeatedly lied, misled, and distorted the truth about John Kerry.
The Truth About Hillary author Edward Klein reportedly has a personal dislike of the Clintons; the New York Post reported in December that an "insider said Klein doesn't care for the Clintons, and he is digging up some new dirt on them."
That dislike may have motivated Klein to rely on the notoriously unreliable Dick Morris, who said on Hannity & Colmes that he was interviewed for the book. Morris's comments about Clinton should, of course, be taken with a shaker of salt; not only has he repeatedly made false and misleading claims about her, he also acknowledged that he'll do anything to defeat her.
From the April 12 edition of Hannity & Colmes:
ALAN COLMES (co-host): You impart to her -- or imbue her with the most negative motives for anything she does. Is it your goal, Dick, to do anything you can to derail a possible Hillary candidacy?
MORRIS: Because I think she would make an awful president. Because I know her well, and she would combine an ultra-left agenda with Nixonian means.
In short: the publisher suggests the purpose of the book is to defeat Clinton; the author is known to dislike the Clintons; and the one known source has leveled increasingly bizarre allegations against the Clintons for years and says he'll do anything he can to defeat her. Perhaps the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are a good comparison after all.
Klein makes his living trashing the famous in controversial books. The Boston Herald has quoted him calling the late Carolyn Bessette Kennedy "a disturbed, neurotic, unstable young woman"; according to the Buffalo News, Klein's book The Kennedy Curse described Bessette Kennedy "sprawled on the floor in front of a sofa, disheveled and hollow-eyed, snorting cocaine with a gaggle of gay fashionistas." The News book review called The Kennedy Curse "a contrived and stretched effort that seeks legitimacy by surrounding a few interesting scoops with historical and psychological analysis," adding of one Klein passage,
He takes a long and involved analysis of Ireland's Great Famine of the 1840s, links it to the emigration of JFK's great-grandfather to Boston, and applies enough psychobabble to explain everything from President Kennedy's womanizing to William Kennedy Smith's celebrated rape trial in 1991.
This is not only psychobabble, it's psychoblarney.
A Fort Worth Star-Telegram review was similarly dismissive of Klein's work, noting: "[W]hat we get in Edward Klein's The Kennedy Curse is People-magazine-level investigative reporting from a writer who already has turned his acquaintance with various Kennedys into a bestseller. ... The Kennedy Curse is similarly heavy on salacious and light on significant"; the review went on to accuse Klein of building "a case on convenient rather than complete evidence."
A Rocky Mountain News reviewer took issue with Klein's reliance on anonymous sources -- so much so that the headline on the review was "Anonymous Sources Taint 'Kennedy Curse.' " A Philadelphia Inquirer review called Klein a "recovering journalist ... Klein has become another Kitty Kelley, albeit with fewer facts," adding:
Klein practices genetics and psychoanalysis, all predicated on a towering cream puff of assumptions.
Klein foreshadows. He re-creates conversations that cannot be re-created. He forces Aesop-like parables, such as "the Honey Fitz story illustrates how an otherwise brilliant and cunning man could be destroyed by his self-inflicted wounds."
He cites a Greek curse put on Jacqueline Kennedy for marrying Aristotle Onassis, and he tells of a Lubavitcher rabbi who cursed Joseph Kennedy for stopping his prayers. He rewrites history. Of Edward M. Kennedy, to this day a leader in the Senate where he's served for 40 years, Klein surmises that "following the lurid revelations in the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, Teddy was toast."
If only that were true of this absurd book.
According to the British Sunday Mirror, Klein's book claimed "President Kennedy's secret service agents went on a shocking drinks bender hours before he was assassinated and were in no state to protect him."
On July 10, 2003, the New York Daily News quoted CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour denouncing Klein's depiction of John Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy: "I simply do not recognize [them] in the wild and exaggerated caricatures that this latest book conjures up. ... The author has taken half-truths and untruths and concocted a fictional conclusion."
Klein's primary claim to fame as a journalist is that he served as editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine for 11 years. But The Washington Post reported in 1987 that Klein's resignation followed the magazine's publication of "two stories of questionable accuracy":
Rumors of Klein's imminent departure have been circulating in New York for months, following recent publication in the magazine of two stories of questionable accuracy, and at least two publications that regularly twit The Times -- Spy and The Village Voice -- have been speculating about successors.
In July, the magazine ran a staged, four-year-old photo and misidentified it as a recent Miami drug arrest. And a week earlier, the newspaper had run an editor's note clarifying the status of writer Rae Lawrence, whose story in the magazine about trying to get her novel published left the mistaken impression she had no previous literary experience.
An October 18, 1987, Associated Press report also detailed the circumstances surrounding Klein's departure from the Times Magazine:
Edward Klein, editor of The New York Times Magazine since 1977, has resigned in the wake of criticism of a pair of magazine pieces this year.
Klein and Times Executive Editor Max Frankel mutually decided that more than a decade running the weekly magazine was long enough, the newspaper said in its Sunday editions. After the two discussed other positions at the paper, Klein decided to look for another job.
Unmentioned in the Times report were two articles from the magazine that stirred controversy earlier this year: a report on Miami that unwittingly used a staged picture, and an article by a woman identifying herself as an office secretary that dealt with getting her first book published. The article failed to mention the woman's Radcliffe education and ties to the publishing industry.
According to an October 18, 1987, United Press International article, a Times spokesperson said Klein's departure was unrelated to the magazine's inaccurate reporting. But UPI also noted another incident that occurred on Klein's watch:
On Feb. 22, 1982, The New York Times Magazine published an article on Cambodia that had been fabricated by its author, freelance writer Christopher Jones, who claimed to have made a dangerous journey into the country to meet with Khmer Rouge leaders. Jones admitted the hoax after the Village Voice reported that passages from Jones' article matched passages from The Royal Way, a novel on Cambodia by French writer Andre Malraux.
A February 19, 1982, New York Times article quoted Klein saying "thoroughly professional efforts" had been made to confirm the accuracy of Jones's story. But according to a March 1, 1982, Time article, the Jones piece contained several factual errors in addition to outright fabrications:
Cambodia experts have picked up numerous errors of fact. Samples: Phnom Malai is a mountain range, not the capital city of Democratic Kampuchea; the Khmer Rouge do not put poison on their punji sticks; Comrade Kanika, who is described by Jones as "a wiry man with short gray hair," is actually a woman -- and has represented the Cambodians in Paris for several years.
In a February 22, 1982, New York Times article, the paper's executive editor acknowledged its failure to identify "clues in the text" that would have called the article's truthfulness into question, and added that the Times Magazine did not follow customary procedures in dealing with the article:
In New York, A. M. Rosenthal, executive editor of The Times, said: "We checked his reputation and were informed by a publication for which he had worked in Asia that he was a reliable journalist. After his piece came in, it was put through checking procedures -- scrutiny by editors, researchers and telephone conversations with the author on many points.
"But in this case, these procedures failed to uncover the clues in the text that would have led us to doubt the veracity of the piece. 'We do not feel that the fact the writer was a liar and hoaxer removes our responsibility. It is our job to uncover any falsehood or errors.
"The major mistake we made is in not following our customary procedures in showing an article in a specialized subject by any writer without outstanding credentials in the field to one of our own specialists.
"I regret this whole sad episode and the lapse in our procedures that made it possible."
Contact Penguin Putnam, and tell them publishing houses shouldn't be playing politics:
Phone: (800) 788-6262
And contact Sentinel