Bay Buchanan provided an "extreme makeover" of Hillary and Chelsea Clinton's 9-11 accounts
Research ››› ››› MATT GERTZ
On CNN's Situation Room, Bay Buchanan falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton said "her daughter [was] out jogging" on September 11, 2001, "and stopped near the [World Trade Center] towers." Buchanan asserted that Clinton "fabricated" this story. However, Clinton did not say that her daughter jogged near the World Trade Center that day.
In a May 24 appearance on CNN to promote her book The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton (Regnery, May 2007), Bay Buchanan, a Republican strategist and senior adviser to presidential hopeful Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), falsely claimed that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) said "her daughter [was] out jogging" on the day of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks "and stopped near the [World Trade Center] towers." Buchanan asserted that Clinton "fabricated" the story. In fact, in the interview Buchanan was referring to, Clinton did not claim that her daughter had jogged near the World Trade Center that day.
On the May 24 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Buchanan claimed that Clinton, following 9-11, "went on national television and fabricated where her daughter was, talked about how her daughter [was] out jogging that morning and stopped near the towers, heard the planes crash. You could imagine how traumatic that would be for this young woman, and we all feel enormous compassion." Buchanan continued: "It was fabricated. It was all made up. Chelsea herself says she never left the apartment that morning. And so what kind of character would get on national -- a mother would get on national TV and make up stories about her daughter?"
Buchanan's account is inconsistent with the statements of both Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Sen. Clinton said the following on the September 17, 2001, edition of Dateline NBC:
CLINTON: She'd gone, what she thought would be just a great jog. She was going to go down to Battery Park, she was going to go around the towers. She went to get a cup of coffee and -- and that's when the plane hit.
JANE PAULEY (host): She was close enough to hear the rumble.
CLINTON: She did hear it.
PAULEY: And to see the smoke in person, not on television.
CLINTON: No. Of course, Bill was in Australia. And, you know, he was so upset by what he was seeing on television that I didn't want to tell him that I couldn't find her until I found her. I told him that, you know, everything's fine, don't worry. But I couldn't do it with the level of assurance that I needed until I could find her a couple of hours later.
As the transcript reveals, Sen. Clinton did not say -- as Buchanan falsely claimed -- that Chelsea was "out jogging that morning and stopped near the towers, heard the planes crash"; rather, that Chelsea "was going to go around the towers." In addition, Buchanan's assertion that Chelsea said she "never left the apartment that morning" is contradicted by a November 9, 2001, UPI article about a piece Chelsea wrote in Talk magazine:
"When the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, I was 12 blocks away, (and) nothing has been the same since," Clinton wrote in the December/January issue of Talk magazine, on sale Friday in New York.
Clinton had been staying with her high school friend Nicole Davison in her apartment near Union Square for a few days in September before she went to England to study at Oxford. After they had coffee together, Davison went to work and Clinton returned to the apartment.
Davison called Clinton with the news of the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. Clinton turned on the television and watched the second plane crash into the second WTC tower, and tried to reach her mother in Washington, but after speaking to her assistant, the phone line went dead.
Panicked, Chelsea Clinton left the apartment and found herself running toward downtown "in the direction everyone else was coming from," in search of a public telephone. She was desperate to call her mother and her father, who was on a speaking tour in Australia.
Chelsea Clinton was downtown in line at a pay phone when she heard the rumble of the second tower collapsing. Later she found Davison and another friend, and the three spent the day walking uptown. Chelsea Clinton wrote that she had an "irrational medley of thoughts" running through her head.
According to the UPI account of Chelsea's article in Talk, she did leave the apartment that morning: first to have coffee, as her mother later recounted on Dateline, and again after she heard that the World Trade Center had been hit, when she attempted to find a pay phone and heard the rumble of the towers collapsing; she claimed that she was 12 blocks away from them.
After Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton, challenged Buchanan's version of the events on The Situation Room, she responded: "It's all documented in the book." However, the account in The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton is also flawed:
As a United States senator, Hillary dropped another fictitious family story on the press. On NBC's Dateline, Senator Hillary Clinton reported that Chelsea was near danger the morning of September 11:
"She had gone on what she thought would be a great jog," Hillary explained. "She was going down to Battery Park, she was going to go around the Towers. She was going to get a cup of coffee and that's when the plane hit. ... She did hear it. She did."
"At that moment, she was not just a senator, but a concerned parent," the Today show's Katie Couric told viewers.
A few weeks later, an article appeared in Talk magazine in which Chelsea described where she was the morning of September 11. It was nowhere near the Towers, and bore no resemblance to what Hillary reported earlier on NBC. Chelsea was alone at a friend's apartment when the friend called to tell her what had happened. She then "stared senselessly at the television."
Buchanan claimed Sen. Clinton said, "She was going down to Battery Park, she was going to go around the Towers," when, according to the Dateline transcript in the Nexis database, Clinton actually said, "She was going to go down to Battery Park, she was going to go around the Towers." Buchanan's version of the quotation inaccurately implied that Clinton said Chelsea was on her way to Battery Park when the attacks occurred. Also, while Buchanan is correct in her statement that Chelsea was "alone at a friend's apartment" when she first learned that a plane had struck the World Trade Center, she did not mention that Chelsea left the apartment to get coffee earlier that morning, and got close enough to hear the rumble of the towers collapsing afterward.
The only source Buchanan cited to support her claims is syndicated columnist Dick Morris' book, Rewriting History (Regan Books, 2004), which Media Matters for America has also debunked.
During the same segment, Buchanan claimed that "after three years" as first lady, "52 percent of Americans believed she [Clinton] was a liar and 68 percent believed she had violated the law or done something wrong. She had done this on her own, yet she takes no responsibility for any of this." Buchanan repeated this claim during the May 28 edition of The O'Reilly Factor: "In three years in the public limelight as a first lady of the United States, half of America thought she was a liar, and two-thirds thought she had broken the law. Why is that? Or done something wrong."
Buchanan was apparently referring to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll conducted January 12-15, 1996. But in simply asserting that this survey found that most Americans believed "she was a liar" and "had violated the law or done something wrong," Buchanan left out the context of the poll: The questions pertained specifically to the Whitewater controversy, a series of investigations into a 1978 real estate deal involving the Clintons.
The poll asked:
Question qn26 (January 1996 Election Benchmark) 1/12/1996-1/15/1996
(Now we have a few questions about Whitewater and other matters that are being investigated concerning the Clintons.) Which of the following statements best describes your view of Hillary Clinton's actions in these matters -- Hillary Clinton did something ILLEGAL; she did something UNETHICAL, but NOTHING illegal; she did not do anything seriously wrong; or are you unsure?
Question qn29b (January 1996 Election Benchmark) 1/12/1996-1/15/1996
In your view, is...Hillary Clinton...telling the truth about Whitewater and the other matters being investigated, or is she lying?
Moreover, the poll was conducted during the Senate Whitewater hearings, which lasted 13 months and ended in June 1996, and less than two weeks before Hillary Clinton's January 26, 1996, testimony before a grand jury on the same matter. In September 2000, however, independent counsel Robert Ray concluded a six-year, $60 million investigation, which found that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the Clintons had committed any crimes in connection to the Whitewater controversy. According to the statement from Ray that accompanied the independent counsel's final report:
This office determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either President or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct involving Madison Guaranty, C.M.S., or Whitewater Development or knew of such conduct. The evidence relating to their testimony and conduct, in connection with this investigation and other investigations involving the same entities, was also, in the judgment of this office, insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either of them committed any criminal offense, including perjury or obstruction of justice.
In addition, during the May 28 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, guest host John Kasich asked Buchanan why several Republican senators had praised Clinton's character and ability if she is "nothing but a chameleon," as Buchanan asserted in her book. Buchanan replied: "[I]n this town, if you bat your eyes a little bit and smile at some of these men, ego plays and they think, 'Isn't this terrific, this superstar likes me.' "
From the May 24 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
WOLF BLITZER (host): Bay, let's start with you. The title -- The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton -- you put "Rodham" in parentheses. Here's what you write on page 8: "Hillary Rodham Clinton is going to run for president as someone she is not. This talk of an evolving Hillary is part of an extreme makeover to get the old Hillary remodeled -- remolded, that is -- and repackaged into a marketable political force for 2008." All right, give us one piece of evidence why you say that.
BUCHANAN: Well, it's clear. There's an attempt here not only to hide the fact that she is a liberal, that she's from the far left part of her party, but also the character herself.
Just think back a few years ago, Wolf. She was the first lady of the United States. After three years in the public limelight, 52 percent of Americans believed she was a liar and eighty -- 68 percent believed she had violated the law or done something wrong. She had done this on her own, yet she takes no responsibility for any of this.
She has to make that image over, and she's done a very, very good job, but character stays with you. You don't move to another job and leave your character behind. And that's a critical aspect when you're running for president. We must know her true character.
BUCHANAN: This is a woman after 9-11 as a U.S. senator went on national television and fabricated where her daughter was, talked about how her daughter out jogging that morning and stopped near the towers, heard the planes crash. You could imagine how traumatic that would be for this young woman, and we all feel enormous compassion. It was fabricated. It was all made up. Chelsea herself says she never left the apartment that morning.
And so, what kind of character would get on national -- a mother would get on national TV and make up stories about her daughter? This is somebody --
BLITZER: I'm not familiar -- are you familiar with that story?
DAVIS: Not only --
BUCHANAN: The facts are there.
DAVIS: -- not only am I not familiar, but I do know with absolute certainty that both Clintons were dreadfully worried about not being able to reach Chelsea Clinton on the occasion of 9-11, and she was in the downtown area. I don't know where Bay is getting her facts, all right, but let me just go back to --
BUCHANAN: It's all documented in the book.
From the May 28 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:
JOHN KASICH (guest host): You've got [Sen.] John McCain [R-AZ], who says, and I quote, "I have no doubt that Senator Clinton would make a good president." Senator Lindsey Graham [SC], Republican, says she is smart, prepared, serious. [Sen.] John Warner [VA], sort of the dean of the United States Senate, Republican, conservative, says she has a remarkable core of inner strength. These are people who have worked with her for seven years. So if you got Republicans saying that, why do you say that she's nothing but a chameleon?
BUCHANAN: Because the extreme makeover began many years ago, John. She's been doing this. And in this town, you know, if you bat your eyes a little bit and smile at some of these men, ego plays and they think, "Isn't this terrific, this superstar likes me." But listen, in three years in the public limelight as a first lady of the United States, half of America thought she was a liar and two-thirds thought she had broken the law. Why is that? Or done something wrong. It's because of her own actions, decisions, poor judgments that she made. It's important that we examine that before we allow somebody to move ahead who has shown such poor judgment as she has in important positions. She's failed miserably at one thing after another.