Media conservatives hype discredited NewsBusters post on background foliage in Clinton video

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

Numerous media conservatives have touted a discredited post on the Media Research Center's NewsBusters weblog to baselessly claim that Hillary Clinton recorded her announcement video launching her presidential bid months prior to actually announcing. Even though the post was later updated to add that a reporter "whom I respect informs me that video was produced last week in DC," hosts such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity touted the NewsBusters post to support the claim.

Following Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) January 20 launch of her presidential bid, numerous media conservatives, like CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck, a new regular commentator for ABC's Good Morning America, have touted a discredited post by Mark Finkelstein on the Media Research Center's NewsBusters weblog to baselessly claim that Clinton recorded her announcement video months before actually announcing. The January 20 post, which immediately followed Clinton's announcement, questioned when the video was shot by pointing to the foliage in the background of the video and asking: "Did Hillary have this video in the can during all those months while she was claiming to be making up her mind? Was it a carefully staged artificial background?" The post was later updated with the following: "A national-level reporter whom I respect informs me that the video was produced last week in DC. The reporter does not know whether the background is natural." Further, according to Newsday, Clinton's announcement video was filmed in her Washington, D.C., home the previous week, and National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams reported on the January 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends that the video was filmed January 18 "[a]t her [Clinton's] D.C. house, which is actually near Rock Creek Park."

Nevertheless, on both his cable television program and nationally syndicated radio show, Beck referenced the NewsBusters post to suggest that Clinton was being dishonest about when she made her decision to run for president. On his radio show, Beck, presumably referring to NewsBusters, noted that "the Media Matters of the right ... said they have it on good authority that she did record it last week," yet continued to question the timing of the video, later stating: "we found out that she apparently filmed this last week in Washington, and it's apparently full-fledged summer in Washington." Beck then suggested "it could have been [filmed] on a set."

Yet, despite earlier acknowledging on his radio show that NewsBusters noted that Clinton apparently recorded the video "last week," later that evening on the January 22 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, Beck asserted that due to the foliage in the video, "I believe that she may have also filmed this little Web video a very long time ago." Beck continued: "Now, I'm no arborist, but I am a thinker. And it doesn't seem like trees should have their leaves in January in New York or Washington, unless it's that damn global warming again." At no point during his television show did Beck note that Clinton reportedly filmed the video in D.C. the week earlier.

Beck is not alone in questioning when Clinton's announcement had been taped, even after the NewsBusters post had been updated, to baselessly suggest Clinton was being dishonest about when she decided to run for president. For instance:

  • On the January 22 edition of Fox & Friends, co-anchor Steve Doocy stated during his interview with Williams that "there's a lot of green foliage" in the background, and "[y]ou know, throughout the Northeast -- if that was shot in Chappaqua, all the leaves have been gone in Chappaqua for the last two or three months. Obviously, she taped this thing in October or early November and she's just been waiting" to make her announcement. Williams corrected Doocy, replying: "No, I think they shot it last Thursday in D.C. ... In her D.C. house, which is actually near Rock Creek Park, for those of you who know it. So that's a little foliage in the background."
  • During the January 22 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Sean Hannity pointed to the NewsBusters report to accuse Sen. Clinton of engaging in "a Clinton manipulation." Hannity asserted that he "would assume it was shot in one of her homes -- either Chappaqua or Georgetown ... and it's been a mild winter and all that, but if you look, you know, the leaves are on the trees. You know, you've got literally flowers in bloom in the background there." Hannity continued: "Look at where she says how to end the deficits and threaten Social Security, as our friends at NewsBusters point out, that's not sunshine [in the background], and those are flowers in bloom. So the question is: When did she plan this? When did she tape this? None of this surprises me in any way if it's a Clinton manipulation -- people knew for a long time she was going to run here." Concluding, Hannity stated, "[N]ow we know how she spends her Saturdays. You know, when she's not throwing lamps and shoes at Bill."
  • Rush Limbaugh also discussed the background foliage in Clinton's video on the January 22 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, stating: "I know the spin is it was recorded last week, but the trees are green, the flowers are blooming outside the window there in her Washington home. We don't know if the background is real or in a TV studio, or what have you."
  • During the January 22 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Neal Boortz claimed Clinton filmed her announcement video "months ago": "The obvious image that the Clinton campaign wanted to give was that she sat down at the end of last week and recorded the little announcement for her followers so that they could play it over the weekend -- strategically place it over the weekend. No, it was recorded sometime over the summer. I mean, I know, I understand it's no big deal. But the trees with leaves on them, the blooming flowers in the background, it's been there all along they were just waiting for the right time to play it."

From the January 22 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Anywho, as I watched Hillary's announcement on her website -- which I watch all the time; it's great -- I was struck by a couple of things.

One, her delivery. It had all of the charm and charisma of a roof shingle. And the second thing was, what's with the green leaves in the background? What's up with that? I thought this was recorded in January in New York. But more on that later in "The Real Story."

[...]

BECK: But lost in all the hoopla and excitement over that announcement was the fact that another candidate also forming an exploratory committee -- please, if you've just eaten dinner, maybe you have an upset stomach, please avert your eyes. Watch this.

CLINTON [video clip]: I announced today that I'm forming a presidential exploratory committee. I'm not just starting a campaign, though; I'm beginning a conversation with you, with America.

BECK: Ooh! No offense there, Hillary, but I think I'm going to take a pass on that conversation. I love so much about this video. My favorite part, I think, is the way she is acting. She is acting and telling you it's very, very -- "I've been agonizing over this decision. It's been very hard to make this decision."

But "The Real Story" tonight: Hillary -- she decided to run for president when she was, like, 8. Now, I believe that she may have also filmed this little Web video a very long time ago, as well. I want you to look at this video again.

OK, besides, you know, the staged, cozy living room scene, there's a window there with, gosh, doesn't it look like an awful lot of green trees behind her? Now, I'm no arborist, but I am a thinker. And it doesn't seem like trees should have their leaves in January in New York or Washington, unless -- unless it's that damn global warming again. My gosh, that stuff just won't let up.

If that video was just filmed, then maybe they consulted focus groups to figure out what kind of background relates the best to the average American. You know, Hillary likes green trees, and Americans like green trees. I think we've got it.

Now, we did call Hillary's office a couple of times today about this, but I guess them commenting on staging for her Web video is not really a top priority for her right now, because they never really called us back. But I believe that was a big mistake for them, because it led me to wonder what other sets they may have tested in focus groups.

From the January 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: And, Juan, as we look at that picture, you can see in one of the wide shots, the background -- there's a lot of green foliage. You know, throughout the Northeast -- if that was shot in Chappaqua, all the leaves have been gone in Chappaqua for the last two-and-a-half, three months. So, obviously, she taped this thing in October or early November, and she's just been waiting.

WILLIAMS: No, I think they did it Thursday of last week in D.C.

DOOCY: Is that right?

WILLIAMS: At her D.C. house, which is actually near Rock Creek Park, for those of you who know it. So that's a little bit of the green foliage in the background.

From the January 22 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:

BECK: And there's some speculation that she didn't record this last week, because the picture -- you know, she did it on her website, and the video -- you look outside, and it's sunny and there -- you know, there's trees with leaves, and -- how do you make that happen now in the winter? Did she record it in the summer and then say, "I don't know, I'm still thinking about it. I don't know what I'm going to do." There is, apparently, on the Media Matters of the left -- I'm sorry, the Media Matters of the right -- which I would find just as credible as the Media Matters on the left, said they have it on good authority that she did record it last week. So, I mean, if they're throwing her a bone, you gotta believe she probably did. But we've found some additional information that she didn't record it last fall. We'll share that with you here coming up in just a minute. You don't want to miss that.

[...]

BECK: Now, she's getting a lot of heat because they say that there's --you know, there's -- well, there's plants behind her, in the outdoors, like trees with leaves on them. I mean, it was one of the first things I noticed. She's, "I've been agonizing on this decision, I just haven't known, and I just made my decision." And you look outside of her house in Chappaqua -- if that is indeed where they filmed it -- and the trees have leaves on them. Now, we found out that she apparently filmed this last week in Washington, and it's apparently full-fledged summer in Washington. But it could have been on a set -- I mean, I don't know. Maybe. But I'm listening to it and -- did you notice, did you guys hear -- Stu, did you hear the -- there was like a conversation happening in the background or something? Did you notice that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't pick up really what it was.

BECK: Can you -- Dan, can you digitally enhance a little bit? Can you turn up --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I can. I can focus in on that and kind of --

BECK: -- focus in that? Bring that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give it some game.

BECK: Yeah. Bring the background up a bit. Go ahead, play this back.

[clip of Clinton's announcement with audio of the Hindenburg disaster playing in the background]

BECK: OK, stop just a second. See, I -- I thought I did -- she didn't do this in the fall or summer. This was actually videotaped in 1937, and she hasn't aged a day. She doesn't look a day over 175, and I think that's great.

From the January 22 broadcast of Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show:

BOORTZ: But she started out her campaign with -- I mean, it wasn't blatant dishonesty, but she started out her campaign with just a little bit of dishonesty, and that was this video that appeared on her website.

If you take a look -- sure, this is really nothing really meaningful in the grand scheme of things, folks, but when you put it together with the rest of what makes up Hillary Clinton, it becomes just another part of her fundamental dishonesty with the American people. And that is this: this little announcement that you saw -- if you went to her website -- and that you saw repeated on CNN and Fox News over the weekend was recorded months ago. Months ago.

The obvious image that the Clinton campaign wanted to give was that she sat down at the end of last week and recorded a little announcement for her followers so that they could play it over the weekend -- strategically place it over the weekend. No, it was recorded sometime over the summer. I mean, I know, I understand, it's no big deal. But the trees with leaves on them, the blooming flowers in the background, it's been there all along. They were just waiting for the right time to play it.

From the January 22 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: What the hell is she talking about? The Democrats just won the election! When was this thing recorded? I know the spin is it was recorded last week, but the trees are green, the flowers are blooming outside the window there in her Washington home. We don't know if the background is real or in a TV studio, or what have you. But for crying out loud! The -- let's talk? Let's chat? Let's start a dialogue about your ideas and mine?

From the January 22 edition of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: You know, I would assume it was shot in one of Hillary's homes, Chappaqua or Georgetown, but we don't know -- but again, the media is never going to get an answer from this question. And it's been a mild winter and all that, but if you look -- you know, look at the -- you know, the leaves are on the trees. You know, you've got, literally, flowers in bloom in the background there. Especially -- look at where she says how to end the deficits and threaten Social Security -- as our friends at NewsBusters point out, that's not sunshine, those are flowers in bloom. So the question is: When did she plan this? When did she tape this? None of this surprises me in any way if it's a Clinton manipulation -- we all knew for a long time she was gonna -- she was gonna run here. You know, look, I guess now we know how she spends her Saturdays. You know, when she's not throwing lamps and shoes at Bill, maybe that's how she relaxes. Who knows?

[...]

HANNITY: No, [caller], I'm looking at the picture, and there are leaves on the trees. Now, either it's a set or she taped it sometime in late August, September, or October.

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