Limbaugh runs with Dick Morris' dubious Clinton-Reno-Waco story

››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

Rush Limbaugh joined other right-wing media in promoting Fox News analyst Dick Morris' dubious claim that in 1997, President Clinton told Morris that Clinton had reappointed then-Attorney General Janet Reno because she threatened to "tell the truth about Waco." However, Morris' story contradicts his previous account of a conversation he had with Clinton about reappointing Reno. In that account, Morris gave no indication that Clinton had confided to him about any alleged threats from Reno.

Morris' dubious story: Clinton told him Reno "would have turned on me over Waco" if he hadn't re-nominated her

From the April 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

MORRIS: And let's understand what was Timothy McVeigh's motivation. God knows what was going in that crazy head of his but there's some speculation, and he himself had said, that it was the reaction to the Waco takeover. And Bill Clinton orchestrated that takeover. And in fact was so ashamed at what he did in Waco that he was not gonna appoint Janet Reno to a second four year term. And she told him in a meeting right before the inauguration day for his new term that 'if you don't appoint me, I'm gonna tell the truth about Waco.' And that forced Clinton's hand in reappointing her. So I think Mr. --

MORRIS: I have no idea. But I know that he told me, Clinton told me, that 'I couldn't not appoint Reno because she would have turned on me over Waco.' That's the phrase he used.

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I don't remember you telling this story before.

MORRIS: No, it's never been said before.

HANNITY: Woah.

MORRIS: I think that President Clinton might want to examine his own connection with the Oklahoma City bombing in terms of Waco before he starts accusing people in walkers and wheelchairs who are trying to keep their Medicare of being provocateurs.

HANNITY: So, what was the truth about Waco that Reno threatened to use against him?

Limbaugh uses Morris' story to buttress his attacks on Clinton's "invasion" of Waco

Limbaugh: "Dick Morris told Sean Hannity that Bill Clinton may want to reflect on his own responsibilities for the Waco invasion." On April 20, referencing Morris' appearance on Hannity, Rush Limbaugh said "Dick Morris told Sean Hannity that Bill Clinton may want to reflect on his own responsibilities for the Waco invasion because Dick Morris said that Bill Clinton personally told him that Janet Reno's appointment to a second term as attorney general was to keep her quiet about the Waco invasion in 1993, that McVeigh claimed as his inspiration." Limbaugh contrasted Morris' story with Clinton's recent warnings that incendiary rhetoric and "demonizing the government" incited domestic terrorism during his presidency and threatened to do so again

Limbaugh: "No one has said this, until Dick Morris kicked the can down the road last night." Later in the program, Limbaugh claimed "no one has said this, until Dick Morris kicked the can down the road last night, and I have to think that Slick Willy is beet red or was last night when he heard this." After airing a portion of Morris' appearance on Hannity, Limbaugh went on to say "what Dick Morris is saying here is that Clinton ordered the invasion."

Limbaugh has repeatedly blamed Clinton for the Oklahoma City bombing. Responding to Clinton's warnings about incendiary rhetoric, on April 19 Limbaugh blamed Clinton for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. According to Limbaugh, Timothy McVeigh "was not inspoired by anybody's words, he was inspired by Mr. Clinton's deeds," including the "Waco invasion."

Limbaugh joins right-wing media in promoting Morris' story

Hoft: "Dick Morris Bombshell: Reno Told Clinton She Stays On or She Blows Whistle on Waco." On April 20, on his Gateway Pundit blog, Jim Hoft embedded video of Morris' comments and said "Dick Morris suggested that Janet Reno threatened to leak the goods on Waco unless Bill Clinton kept her on for a second term. Morris tild (sic) Sean Hannity that this was the first time that he had divulged this information."

Ace Of Spades: "Dick Morris: Clinton Told Me He Had To Reappoint Janet Reno Or She Would Turn on Him Over Waco." On April 19, "Ace" posted on the Ace Of Spades blog that "Just said on Hannity, and Morris says it's a story he never told before. He says Clinton did not want to reappoint Reno to a second four-year term, but felt he had to, or else she would 'tell the truth about him and Waco.'"

Fox Nation: "Dick Morris Bombshell: How Reno Blackmailed Clinton With Waco." On April 20, Fox Nation linked to a HotAirPundit recap of the story under the headline, "Dick Morris Bombshell: How Reno Blackmailed Clinton With Waco" From Fox Nation:

foxnation-20100420-reno.jpg

Morris' claim inconsistent with the story he told in 2004

In Because He Could, Morris does not claim Clinton made such comments during discussion of why he reappointed Reno. In his book Because He Could (HarperCollins, 2004), Morris speculated that "Reno may well have been demanding reappointment as her price for taking the fall for Waco" but makes no mention of any conversation with President Clinton communicating Reno's alleged threat. Instead, Morris wrote that when he asked Clinton why he was re-nominating Reno, Clinton told him Reno "says she'll quit [as attorney general] after a year -- but she begged me to reappoint her first, so it won't look like I was firing her because of Waco."

From Because He Could: [emphasis added]

Reno's loyalty in assuming the blame for Waco in 2000, years after the event, might have its origin in an interesting conversation she had with Clinton in the first few weeks of his second term. As I've noted elsewhere, Clinton told me that he despised Reno; he once told us that her appointment was the "worst mistake" he had ever made. As he shaped his second-term cabinet, he told me he was going to fire her. He sent her every signal of this intention, reappointing or replacing every one of his cabinet members but her. Clinton was obviously hoping that she would resign, to make it easier to get rid of her. But he couldn't get her to quit. So he scheduled a face-to-face meeting with her, at which, he told me, he planned to fire her.

Instead, he decided to let her stay.

Dumbfounded, I asked him why. "I told her," Clinton said, "that no attorney general had ever served for eight years, and that I thought it was not a good idea for anyone to do so. But she was desperate to keep the job. She says she'll quit [as attorney general] after a year -- but she begged me to reappoint her first, so it won't look like I was firing her because of Waco."

I thought it odd that Reno and Clinton should still be talking about Waco, almost four years after the raid. But the very mention of the issue suggests that another dynamic might have been at play here: Reno may well have been demanding reappointment as her price for taking the fall for Waco-- shouldering the responsibility that should have been his. [pp. 56-57]

Morris has a history of contradicting his own books

Morris claimed Hillary Clinton "may well have been a communist", but his book said she wasn't. On the April 14, 2008 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Morris said that Hillary Clinton's 1971 internship at the Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein law firm meant that she "may well have been a communist," but in Morris' book Rewriting History (ReganBooks, 2004) he wrote that "Hillary was no Communist, nor should her work in the Treuhaft firm imply that she was. "

In Rewriting History, Morris claimed Hillary Clinton had and hadn't learned from her experience with health care reform. On page 63 of Rewriting History, Morris wrote "She gives no indication of having learned from the fiasco of health care reform." Thirty-five pages later, on page 97, Morris wrote "Her left-ward tilt in the health care reform days was a thing of the past. She seemed to have learned her lesson."

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