Hitchens falsely claimed that Clinton "suddenly decide[d] that she's a person of faith"

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On MSNBC's Morning Joe, columnist Christopher Hitchens asserted that "[t]he Democratic candidates are all pretending to be as pious as they possibly can be," and stated of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: "It can't be that she suddenly decides that she's a person of faith. She has never particularly mentioned it before." In fact, Clinton has publicly discussed her faith for years, including in her 1996 book and in interviews at least as far back as 1993.

On the September 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens asserted: "The Democratic candidates are all pretending to be as pious as they possibly can be. You see Mrs. [Sen. Hillary Rodham] Clinton [D-NY], looking like the dog being washed, and talking about how her faith got her through the impeachment crisis with her husband." After host Joe Scarborough asked him whether he thought that "Hillary Clinton is pretending to be religious," Hitchens replied: "It can't be that she suddenly decides that she's a person of faith. She has never particularly mentioned it before." Hitchens claimed that Clinton was feigning faith in order to "play to what are called the 'values voters.' " He concluded: "[A]s with everything Mrs. Clinton does, you can see the machinery working, you can see the wheels turning inside her head as she makes her maneuvers." In fact, contrary to Hitchens' claim that she has only recently begun asserting that she is a person of faith as part of her campaign for president, Clinton has publicly discussed her faith for years.

In her 1996 book, It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us (Simon and Shuster), Clinton discussed the role of her faith in her childhood:

We attended a big church with an active congregation, the First United Methodist Church in Park Ridge. The church was a center for preaching and practicing the social gospel, so important to our Methodist traditions. Our spiritual life as a family was spirited and constant. We talked with God, walked with God, ate, studied, and argued with God. Each night, we knelt by our beds to pray before we went to sleep. We said grace at dinner, thanking God for all the blessing bestowed. My brother Hugh had his own characteristic renditions, along the lines of "Good food, good meat, good God, let's eat!" But despite our occasional irreverence, God was always present to us, a much-esteemed, much-addressed member of the family. [Page 171]

Clinton also wrote in her book that "there is no greater gift that God has given any of us than to be loved and to love" [Page 178], and stated that "prayer allows us to let go of our children and to let them find their own ways, with faith to guid and sustain them against the cruelties and indifference of the world" [Page 181].

Additionally, in her 2003 book, Living History (Simon & Schuster), Clinton wrote that she could not describe her time in the White House without noting all that had shaped her life before she got there, including her "family upbringing, education, religious faith, and all that I had learned before" [Page IX]. Clinton went on to write about her faith throughout the book, noting that "what sustained me most through this time was what sustained me throughout our White House tenure: my family, friends, and faith. My religious faith has always been a crucial part of my life. ... I have often told audiences that if I hadn't believed in prayer before 1992, life in the White House would have persuaded me" [Page 167].

Moreover, the media have frequently reported about Clinton's religious faith. As Media Matters for America has noted, an article for the May 23, 1993, edition of the Los Angeles Times Magazine reported that Clinton said during an interview: "Faith is a wonderful gift of grace ... It gives you a sense of being rooted in meaning and love that goes far beyond your own life. It gives you a base of assurance as to what is really important and stands the test of time day after day, minute after minute, so that many of the pressures that come to bear from the outside world are not seen as that significant."

Similarly, in an October 31, 1994, Newsweek profile, reporter Kenneth L. Woodward wrote: "But long before she was a Democrat, a lawyer, or a Clinton, Hillary Rodham was a Methodist. And that, say those who know her now as well as those who knew her when, is the way the First Lady is best understood. She thinks like a Methodist, talks like a Methodist and wants to reform society just like a well-Sunday-schooled Methodist churchwoman should." Woodward also reported that during an interview with Clinton, she "even submitted to a brief examination of her faith." From the article:

Indeed, at one point in the conversation, the First Lady even submitted to a brief examination of her faith:

"Do you believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?"

"Yes."

"The atoning death of Jesus?"

"Yes."

"The resurrection of Christ?'

"Yes."

Woodward also reported that "In Arkansas, Mrs. Clinton taught Methodist Sunday school. She also attended church regularly and, in the Methodist tradition of favoring lay preachers, she spoke often at church gatherings on 'Why I am a United Methodist.' " Discussing the Clinton family's religious practices after President Clinton's inauguration, Woodward noted: "As long as they are in the White House, the First Family has elected to worship at Foundry United Methodist Church, less than a mile away."

Further, in direct contradiction to Hitchens' claims, it was widely reported at the time that her faith "got her through the impeachment crisis with her husband." Indeed, an August 19, 1998, Boston Globe article discussing Hillary Clinton's reaction to President Clinton's admission that he had had an extramarital affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, reported: "[Clinton's spokeswoman Marsha] Berry said Mrs. Clinton, a Methodist, also was relying on 'a strong religious faith.' The Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the White House Sunday night, reportedly at the request of 18-year-old Chelsea Clinton, to pray with Mrs. Clinton and her daughter for two hours." Similarly, an August 2, 1999, Los Angeles Times article about an interview Clinton gave to Talk magazine reported that Clinton "said she survived the Lewinsky episode and her husband's impeachment through 'soul-searching, friends, religious faith and long, hard discussions.' "

From the September 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: How do you think the success of your book and these other books, and you said the changing of the zeitgeist in America regarding faith and religion, is going to impact the 2008 election? Do you think that somebody like Rudy Giuliani, who's more of a secular candidate than, say, Mitt Romney, is going to have a leg up in the Republican primary because of this change of zeitgeist that you speak of?

HITCHENS: Well, it's actually -- at the moment I have to say, it seems to be having the opposite effect. The Democratic candidates are all pretending to be as pious as they possibly can be. You see this with Clinton, looking like the dog being washed, and talking about how her faith got her through the impeachment crisis with her husband. People forget, of course, that it was Billy Graham and Jesse Jackson who got Clinton through that crisis by allowing him to pretend that he too was a person of faith. It really is sordid. I think, actually, the Democrats are making a mistake by doing this, because I think people who genuinely are faithful in their hearts don't like to see religious hypocrisy, don't like people pretending to be more pious then they are.

SCARBOROUGH: So you think Hillary Clinton is pretending to be religious? You think Barack Obama is pretending to be religious?

HITCHENS: It can't be that she suddenly decides that she's a person of faith. She has never particularly mentioned it before. And all the Democrats seem to have concluded from the last midterms that, the finding is, that it goes down well if you play to what are called the "values voters," that's a code word for the evangelicals. It's so obvious, you can see, as with everything Mrs. Clinton does, you can see the machinery working, you can see the wheels turning inside her head as she makes her maneuvers.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, Barack Obama and John Edwards also talking about Jesus --

HITCHENS: Well, actually, I know the Senator Edwards slightly, and I think actually he does have a genuine, rather uncomplicated faith, and I gather that Mr. Obama's been going to some rather rock-and-roll ethnic church in Chicago for some time. So for all I know, he believes that stuff. But I mean, if he does, then so much the worse.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Christopher Hitchens
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
Stories/Interests
Duncan Hunter, 2008 Elections
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