On Hardball, Christopher Hitchens repeated an unsubstantiated claim he has made in the past: that Hillary Clinton "got" her husband to visit Pakistan in 2000 after a Pakistani-American PAC held a fundraiser that brought in $50,000 for her Senate race.
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During the December 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, commentator and author Christopher Hitchens -- a frequent critic of the Clintons -- again claimed that in 2000, Hillary Clinton "got" her husband "to change his plan to visit India and to build in a visit to Pakistan on the way in return for" thousands of dollars she received from a fundraiser held by a Pakistani-American PAC. Hitchens cited no source for his assertion, and reporting at the time said there was "no evidence" to support such a claim. Hitchens made similar claims on the March 29, 2000, edition of the show, as well as in the 2000 edition of his book No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family and in a May 1, 2000, column in The Nation. Hitchens made these accusations despite offering no support and despite reporting undermining his claim.
During the December 1 edition of Hardball, after making the accusation, Hitchens added: "Everyone in Pakistan knows she's open for business. This is not a left-right question. It's a matter of integrity." In response, Salon.com senior editor-in-chief Joan Walsh said to Hitchens: "I believe you cherry-picked the worst possible interpretation, as well as facts that aren't necessarily facts, and come up with this analysis."
In a May 1, 2000, column in The Nation titled "The Two Faces of Hillary" (available by subscription), which he quoted at length in the 2000 edition of No One Left to Lie To, Hitchens provided no evidence for the accusation that Hillary Clinton "got" Bill Clinton to go to Pakistan. Hitchens wrote:
General [Pervez] Musharraf's regime has now hired, at a retainer of $22,500 per month, the DC law firm of Patton Boggs, for which Lanny Davis, one of the First Family's chief apologists, toils. Perhaps for reasons having to do with the separation of powers, Patton Boggs also collects $10,000 monthly from Pak-Pac, the Pakistani lobby in America, for Davis's services in its behalf. Suddenly no more Dem jokes about ignorance of Pakistan.
Last December, after Clinton announced that Pakistan would not be on his itinerary when he visited the subcontinent, his former White House "special counsel" arranged a fundraiser in Washington at which lawyers from Patton Boggs made contributions to the First Lady's Senate campaign that now total $25,500. So, not very indirectly, Pakistani military money was washed into her coffers from the very start. Then, in February, another Pak-Pac event, in New York, was brought forward so as to occur before the arrangements for the President's passage to India had been finalized. Having been told that the First Lady did not grace any event for less than $50,000 upfront, the Pakistanis came up with the dough and were handsomely rewarded for their trouble by the presence of Lanny Davis and by a statement from Mrs. Clinton that she hoped her spouse would stop off in Pakistan after all. And a few days later, he announced that, after much cogitation, he would favor General Musharraf with a drop-by.
How does this look to you? One way of deciding it is to try the cover stories for size. "I wish I could say I had the influence and had applied the right pressure for the President to visit Pakistan, but I didn't, so I can't." That's Lanny Davis. Is this what he tells the Pakistanis in return for his large stipend? "If anybody thinks they can influence the President by making a contribution to me, they are dead wrong." That's Hillary Clinton. Is that what she said at the Pak-Pac fundraiser?
One thing that strikes the eye immediately is how cheap this is. And inexpensive, too. The Pakistani nuclear junta must be rubbing its eyes: For such a relatively small outlay of effort it can get the First Family to perform public political somersaults. [emphasis in original]
During his March 29, 2000, appearance on Hardball, Hitchens accused Bill Clinton of "selling U.S. policy on Pakistan to help his wife" and claimed it was a "scandal." Host Chris Matthews responded by asserting that Hillary "grabbed a ton of money from Pakistani-Americans, a huge ethnic group with lots of money and she grabbed all their money and then she said she was not going to encourage her husband to go to Pakistan but all of a sudden he went to Pakistan." Hitchens responded: "No, she said at the dinner I hope he goes to Pakistan."
Contrary to Hitchens' overt accusation on December 1 that Hillary Clinton "got" Bill Clinton to go to Pakistan and his suggested accusations to that effect earlier, The New York Times reported in a March 14, 2000, article that "no evidence has emerged that Hillary Rodham Clinton, who told people at the dinner that she hoped her husband would visit Pakistan, had influenced his decision last week to do so." The Times went on to quote White House spokesperson Mike Hammer as saying, "The first lady's views were not part of the decision-making process." Additionally, the Times noted that "Mr. Clinton has previously indicated his own desire to go to Pakistan."
Additionally, contradicting Hitchens' claim that Davis "organized" the February 2000 New York fundraiser, the Times reported that Davis said "he played no role in arranging the fund-raiser."
As Media Matters for America has documented, in the context of reports that Obama intended to nominate Clinton, Hitchens repeatedly attacked Clinton's foreign policy credentials during appearances on MSNBC:
- On the November 18 edition of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hitchens suggested that Clinton was not "respected in the Pentagon," despite ample evidence that Clinton "has gained a lot of respect among military leadership" and has "built relationships" with military leaders such as Gen. David H. Petraeus and Adm. William J. Fallon.
- During the November 17 edition of Hardball, as well as the November 18 edition of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hitchens revived his accusation, which he has yet to source, that Hillary Clinton blocked any action by the Clinton administration in war-torn Bosnia in 1993 because she didn't want it to interfere with passage of her health-care plan.
From the December 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: OK, Joan, let me try to ask you to climb through that rubble. That's very complicated. What do you think --
MATTHEWS: -- of this appointment? It's complicated, Christopher, because you make the point that this administration's policy hasn't been to the right of what Barack Obama is promising for his administration, which most people would disagree with your view and accept mine -- that it is to the left of what we've had for eight years now.
HITCHENS: Listen, is it left or right for Hillary Clinton to get her husband, after a huge Pakistani fundraiser -- I'm speaking about something very important to us right now. A few years ago, a huge Pakistani fundraiser, in New York, organized for her by Lanny Davis, she got Clinton to change his plan to visit India and to build in a visit to Pakistan on the way in return for a huge campaign donation. Everyone in Pakistan knows she's open for business. This is not a left-right question. It's a matter of integrity.
WALSH: I think this is ridiculous. I think --
HITCHENS: Do we want such a person as secretary of state?
WALSH: Christopher, your views on the Clintons --
MATTHEWS: Joan, your turn.
WALSH: Christopher, your views on the Clintons' integrity are well-known. I consider them eccentric. I believe that you cherry-picked --
HITCHENS: Getting --
WALSH: I'm not -- I'm not going to say that they are perfect, but I believe you cherry-picked the worst possible interpretation, as well as facts that aren't necessarily facts, and come up with this analysis.
HITCHENS: Name one. Name one.
WALSH: I think this is a terrific --
HITCHENS: Name one.
WALSH: I think this is a terrific -- I'm stepping -- I'm going to step around the rubble today, Christopher.
HITCHENS: One, one.
From the March 29, 2000, edition of Hardball (retrieved from the Nexis news database):
MATTHEWS: Well, tell me about India and Pakistan and what your thoughts are.
HITCHENS: What about selling U.S. policy on Pakistan to help his wife? It's a scandal. I can't believe [Rudy] Giuliani is being so quiet about it. If he saw --
MATTHEWS: So she went on television -- I know she grabbed a ton of money from Pakistani-Americans, a huge ethnic group with lots of money and she grabbed all their money and then she said she was not going to encourage her husband to go to Pakistan but all of a sudden he went to Pakistan.
HITCHENS: No, she said at the dinner I hope he goes to Pakistan.
MATTHEWS: I hope he goes. But the fact is that it was never an issue.
HITCHENS: Of course, she's lied a lot about it, as she lies about everything. But you notice that Lanny Davis, her former hack and flack, has been hired by the Pakistani military dictatorship. We were all laughing at Bush for being too nice about that general and forgetting his name, remember?
HITCHENS: Now, Lanny Davis, the hack and flack for the Clintons, is hired for 22 grand a month to represent this dictatorship in Washington and New York. We find he arranged another big dinner in D.C. for fundraising and for pressure on the Clintons. It's extraordinary.
MATTHEWS: You mean that guy that was on this show all the time defending Clinton --
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you --
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems to be present in San Francisco where you are tonight. Let me ask you about this Lanny Davis role. I'm fascinated. Twenty-two thousand dollars a month to represent the dictatorship that overthrew the democratic government in Pakistan and he isn't part of the fundraising campaign, apparently. What's the connection between Hillary -- the fundraising in New York to get her elected to the Senate and the efforts by the Pakistani government to pay for goodwill here in Washington through the good offices of Lanny Davis?
HITCHENS: Yeah, well Mr. Davis says, when he's asked about the dinner he put on in Washington, well, I don't have this kind of influence to change Mr. President Clinton's itinerary. Well, I wonder if that's what he tells the Pakistanis when they hand him the check. Don't give this to me under the impression I can do anything, guys.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about --