Gerth and Van Natta misrepresented Clinton's account of Foster's last month

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

In their new book, Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Little, Brown and Co.), Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. claim that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) blamed deputy White House counsel and longtime friend Vincent Foster for failing to find time to spend with her in the month leading up to Foster's July 20, 1993, suicide. They write: "Hillary's painful reconstruction of their last month of silence focused not on her inability to meet with him, but his own failure to find the time to reach out to her." As their source, the authors cite Clinton's autobiography, Living History (Simon and Schuster, June 2003). But in her autobiography, Clinton wrote that both she and Foster were busy; she had spent that month "working to keep health care reform on the congressional agenda" and had been "preoccupied with preparing for my first trip out of the country as First Lady." She also wrote on page 174 of Living History: "I will go to my grave wishing I had spent more time with him and had somehow seen the signs of his despair."

In their book, Gerth and Van Natta wrote:

The next day, Foster unburdened himself, telling [then-associate attorney general Webster] Hubbell that the reason he and the First Lady rarely spoke of late was because "she's so busy." When they did talk, it was nothing like those days back in Little Rock, Foster said. At the White House, Hillary only had time to bark orders at her mentor, telling him, "Handle it, Vince."

Even that was about to end. Hillary's painful reconstruction of their last month of silence focused not on her inability to meet with him, but his own failure to find the time to reach out to her. Though their offices were near each other in the West Wing, "Vince was busy," she recalled. [Page 126]

Gerth and Van Natta cite page 175 of Living History as their evidence for the claim that Clinton's "painful reconstruction" of the last month of Foster's life concentrated on "his own failure to find the time to reach out to her" rather than "her inability to meet with him." In fact, while Clinton did write on page 175 of her autobiography that "Vince was busy" during this period, she also noted that she was preoccupied as well, specifically stating that her work promoting health care reform and preparing for a state visit to Toyko kept her from seeing Foster:

For the rest of the month and into July, Vince was busy with Bernie Nussbaum, the White House counsel, in vetting candidates to replace both retiring Justice Byron "Whizzer" White and William Sessions, who had been asked to step down as head of the FBI. I was still working to keep health care reform on the congressional agenda. And I was preoccupied with preparing for my first trip out of the country as First Lady. Bill was set to attend the G-7 summit, an annual meeting of the seven leading industrial countries, in Toyko in early July, and I was going with him. [Page 175]

(Then-D.C. Circuit Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg was actually nominated to replace White on June 14, 1993, so the White House counsel's office would likely have spent that month preparing Ginsburg for her Senate hearing, rather than vetting potential Supreme Court nominees. The hearings began on July 20, the day Foster committed suicide and the day that then-Judge Louis Freeh was nominated to replace Sessions.)

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