NY Times, Newsweek articles on Clinton statement on Kazakh president conflict with contemporaneous report

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

A January 31 New York Times article by reporters Jo Becker and Don Van Natta Jr. claimed that during a September 2005 visit to Kazakhstan, former President Bill Clinton "commend[ed] [Kazakh President] Mr. [Nursultan] Nazarbayev for 'opening up the social and political life of your country.' " Similarly, an article in the February 4 issue of Newsweek by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball claimed that Clinton "praise[d] ... Nazarbayev, an authoritarian ruler with a poor human-rights record, for 'opening up the social and political life of your country.' " However, both the Times and Newsweek versions of Clinton's quote conflict with an Agence France Presse (AFP) article published at the time of Clinton's visit. According to the September 7, 2005, AFP article, Clinton said: "I applaud this statement you have made about opening up the social and political life of your country and [it's] a good point that you made this statement before the election this year" [emphasis added].

From the September 7, 2005, AFP article:

Former US president Bill Clinton on Tuesday hailed Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev's commitment to introduce political and social reforms to the Central Asian nation, during a visit here Tuesday.

"Even when I was in office I made a practice not to interfere with the political activities of other countries, but I do want to say that I applaud this statement you have made about opening up the social and political life of your country and [it's] a good point that you made this statement before the election this year," Clinton said after meeting Nazarbayev.

From Becker and Van Natta's January 31 New York Times article, headlined "After Mining Deal, Financier Donated to Clinton":

Mr. Clinton's Kazakhstan visit, the only one of his post-presidency, appears to have been arranged hastily. The United States Embassy got last-minute notice that the president would be making "a private visit," said a State Department official, who said he was not authorized to speak on the record.

The publicly stated reason for the visit was to announce a Clinton Foundation agreement that enabled the government to buy discounted AIDS drugs. But during a news conference, Mr. Clinton wandered into delicate territory by commending Mr. Nazarbayev for "opening up the social and political life of your country."

From Isikoff and Hosenball's Newsweek article, "Here An F.O.B., There An F.O.B.":

A spokesman for [Canadian entrepreneur who founded Lions Gate Entertainment Frank] Giustra tells NEWSWEEK the two men first became acquainted in January 2005, when Giustra organized a tsunami-relief fund-raiser. He asked the former president to provide a videotaped thank you to the event's contributors. The men became friends. Later that year, Giustra, whose broad business interests include mining, was negotiating a deal to mine uranium in Kazakhstan. In September 2005, Giustra and Clinton flew to Kazakhstan on Giustra's jet. Clinton gave a press conference announcing an AIDS initiative with the Kazakh government. He also took the opportunity to praise the country's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, an authoritarian ruler with a poor human-rights record, for "opening up the social and political life of your country."

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