Russert falsely claimed to show "exactly what President Clinton said," aired truncated quotes from both Clintons

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN & BRIAN FREDERICK

After falsely asserting that he was showing viewers "exactly what President Clinton said," referring to January 7 comments Bill Clinton made about Sen. Barack Obama, Tim Russert played a truncated quote from Clinton. In addition, Russert read a quote from The New York Times that truncated Hillary Clinton's statement about civil rights, omitting her reference to President Kennedy.

During a January 13 interview with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) on NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert played a truncated quote from former President Bill Clinton and falsely asserted that he was showing viewers "exactly what President Clinton said." Referring to January 7 comments Bill Clinton made about Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Russert told Hillary Clinton: "It just isn't Sen. Obama who is taking offense. This is exactly what President Clinton said in Dartmouth. Here is the tape." Russert then proceeded to air video of Bill Clinton saying: "Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen." In fact, Russert did not show viewers "exactly what President Clinton said." He did not show what Clinton said immediately before the "fairy tale" quote, when Clinton referred to Obama's statements about the Iraq war. Indeed, The New York Times' Mark Leibovich noted on January 13 that in using the words "fairy tale," Clinton "was referring specifically to the perception that Mr. Obama was totally pure in his opposition to the Iraq war." In addition to showing the truncated video, Russert read an excerpt from Bob Herbert's January 12 New York Times column, in which Herbert claimed that Bill Clinton "sa[id] of Mr. Obama's effort: 'The whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.' "

Russert also read from a January 11 New York Times article that purported to quote a comment Hillary Clinton made about civil rights, and Russert noted Herbert's assertion that Hillary Clinton had "tak[en] cheap shots at, of all people, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." But the Times article that Russert read truncated Hillary Clinton's actual statement, omitting from the quote her reference to President John F. Kennedy.

Quoting from the January 11 Times article's description of what he referred to as "the Martin Luther King thing," Russert claimed to "lay this out for our viewers":

RUSSERT: So these are people who are not supporters of Obama, who are listening. Let me just go to the Martin Luther King thing, because you had your opportunity to talk about this at the beginning of the show and I want to lay this out for our viewers. This is how The New York Times categorized it. "In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Mrs. Clinton ... tried to make a point about presidential leadership. 'Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of '64.' Mrs. Clinton said in trying to make the case that her experience should mean more to voters than the uplifting words of Mr. Obama. 'It took a president to get it done.'"

In fact, Clinton's actual quote -- made during a January 7 interview with Fox News' Major Garrett -- contained the reference to Kennedy below in bold, something that both the Times article and Russert omitted:

CLINTON: I would, and I would point to the fact that that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the president before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality. The power of that dream became real in people's lives because we had a president who said, "We are going to do it," and actually got it accomplished.

From the January 7 Dartmouth campaign event with Bill Clinton, as transcribed by Congressional Quarterly:

QUESTION: Thanks. One of the things that Senator Obama talks about a lot is judgment and I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the recent criticism of Mark Penn, who is Hillary's chief strategist, who's been criticized for being somewhat out of touch with reality.

For instance, he circulated a memo about Iowa, saying "Where's the balance," [sic: bounce] and then the next day, there was a 12-point jump for Obama.

CLINTON: He was wrong. He was wrong about that, because the balance [sic] always occurs on the second day, not the first day. It always occurs on the second day, not the first day.

But since you raised the judgment issue, let's go over this again. That is the central argument for his campaign. "It doesn't matter that I started running for president less than a year after I got to the Senate from the Illinois state senate. I am a great speaker and a charismatic figure and I am the only one that had the judgment to oppose this floor [sic: war] from the beginning, always, always, always."

First, it is factually not true that everybody that supported that resolution supported Bush attacking Iraq before the U.N. inspectors withdrew. Chuck Hagel [NE] was one of the co-authors of that resolution, the only Republican Senator that always opposed the war, every day, from the get-go.

He authored the resolution to say that Bush could go to war only if they didn't cooperate with the inspectors and he was assured personally by [then-National Security Adviser] Condi Rice, as many of the other Senators were. So, first, the case is wrong that way.

Second, it is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years and never got asked one time, not once, "Well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war and you took that speech you're now running on off your Web site in 2004 and there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since."

Give me a break.

[applause]

This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen. So you can talk about Mark Penn all you want. What did you think about the Obama thing, calling Hillary the "Senator from Punjab?" Did you like that? Or what about the Obama handout that was covered up, the press never reported on, implying that I was a crook, scouring me, scathing criticism over my financial reports.

[Former independent counsel] Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon. So you can take a shot at Mark Penn if you want, it wasn't his best day. He was hurt, he felt badly we didn't do better in Iowa.

But, you know, the idea that one of these campaigns is positive and other is negative, when I know the reverse is true and I have seen it and I have been blistered by it for months, is a little tough to take. Just because of the sanitizing coverage that's in the media doesn't mean the facts aren't out there.

[applause]

Otherwise, I do not have any strong feelings about that subject.

[laughter]

Go ahead. I've got to take a question back here and then I -- go ahead.

From the January 13 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: When we arrived in South Carolina yesterday, this was The State newspaper, and the headlines that greeted us. And let me share it with you and our viewers: "Clinton Camp Hits Obama, Attacks 'painful' for black voters. Many in state offended by criticism of Obama and remarks about Martin Luther King." Bob Herbert, in The New York Times, a columnist, weighed in this way: "I could also sense how hard the Clinton camp was working to undermine Senator Obama's main theme, that a campaign based on hope and healing could unify rather than further polarize the country. So there was the former president chastising the press for the way it was covering the Obama campaign and saying of Mr. Obama's effort, quote, 'The whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.' And there was Mrs. Clinton telling the country we don't need, quote, 'false hopes,' and taking cheap shots at, of all people, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We've already seen Clinton surrogates trying to implant the false idea that Mr. Obama might be a Muslim, and perhaps a drug dealer to boot."

What is this all about?

CLINTON: Well, beats me, because there's not one shred of truth in what you've just read. And I regret that, because obviously a lot of people have been, you know, given information or an impression that is absolutely false.

First, with respect to Dr. King, you know, Tim, I was 14 years old when I heard Dr. King speak in person. He is one of the people that I admire most in the world, and the point that I was responding to from Senator Obama himself in a number of speeches he was making is his comparison of himself to President Kennedy and Dr. King. And there is no doubt that the inspiration offered by all three of them is essential. It is critical to who we are as a nation, what we believe in, the dreams and aspirations that we all have. But I also said that, you know, Dr. King didn't just give speeches. He marched, he organized, he protested, he was gassed, he was beaten, he was jailed. He understood that he had to move the political process and bring in those who were in political power, and he campaigned for political leaders, including Lyndon Johnson, because he wanted somebody in the White House who would act on what he had devoted his life to achieving.

[...]

HILLARY CLINTON: And let me address the point that Bill was making. Because again, I think it's been unfairly and inaccurately characterized. What he was talking about was very directly about the story of Senator Obama's campaign being premised on a speech he gave in 2002. And that was to his credit. He gave a speech opposing the war in Iraq. He gave a very impassioned speech against it and consistently said that he was against the war, he would vote against the funding for the war. By 2003, that speech was off his website. By 2004, he was saying that he didn't really disagree with the way that George Bush was conducting the war. And by 2005, -6, and -7, he was voting for $300 billion in funding for the war.

The story of his campaign is really the story of that speech and his opposition to Iraq. I think it is fair to ask questions about, "Well, what did you do after the speech was over?" And when he became a senator, he didn't go to the floor of the Senate to condemn the war in Iraq for 18 months. He didn't introduce legislation against the war in Iraq. He voted against timelines and deadlines initially. So I think it's important that we get the contrasts and comparisons out. I think that's fair game. You know, I think that we don't want anyone, any of our supporters, anyone - and that's why in my campaign, anytime anybody has said anything that I thought was out of bounds, they're gone. You know, I have gotten rid of them. I have said that is not appropriate in this campaign. You know, when Senator Obama's chief strategist accuses me of playing a role in Benazir Bhutto's assassination, there's silence. So let's have one standard.

This is an exciting and historic campaign. One of us is going to make history, which is thrilling to me. I've worked all my life on behalf of civil rights, and women's rights, and human rights. And so I want a good, vigorous campaign about the differences between us and our various qualifications and experiences to be the president that America needs.

RUSSERT: It just isn't Senator Obama who is taking offense. This is exactly what President Clinton said in Dartmouth. Here is the tape.

BILL CLINTON [video clip]: Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.

RUSSERT: Congressman James Clyburn (D) of South Carolina, who's neutral, said this. "To call that dream a fairy tale, which Bill Clinton seemed to be doing, could very well be insulting to some of us."

HILLARY CLINTON: But Tim, let me just stop you right there. Now wait a minute.

RUSSERT: I didn't stop you.

HILLARY CLINTON: No, but you did not give the entire quote.

RUSSERT: No, but you --

HILLARY CLINTON: The entire quote was clearly about the position on Iraq. It was not about the entire candidacy. It was not about the extraordinary --

RUSSERT: But Congressman Clyburn --

HILLARY CLINTON: -- you know, abilities.

RUSSERT: But Congressman -- but Congressman Clyburn has been covering this race. Donna Brazile, herself a longtime activist in the Democratic Party, this is what she said. Here's Donna Brazile.

BRAZILE [video clip]: As an African-American, I find his words and his tone to be very depressing.

RUSSERT: So these are people who are not supporters of Obama, who are listening. Let me just go to the Martin Luther King thing, because you had your opportunity to talk about this at the beginning of the show, and I want to lay this out for our viewers. This is how The New York Times categorized it. "In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Mrs. Clinton ... tried to make a point about presidential leadership. 'Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of '64.' Mrs. Clinton said in trying to make the case that her experience should mean more to voters than the uplifting words of Mr. Obama. 'It took a president to get it done.' " Again, Congressman Clyburn, "We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics. ... That bothered me a great deal."

Network/Outlet
NBC
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Tim Russert
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Meet the Press
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Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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