Fox News is using anonymously-sourced claims from anti-Clinton authors to inject the rumor that Bill Clinton has a mistress into the media, claims which the network has apparently made no effort to confirm.
Weekly Standard online editor Daniel Halper pushed the rumor in his new book, Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine based solely on anonymous sources, who he claimed told him the former president was engaging in "reckless" behavior with a mistress. On July 21, The New York Post gossip section Page Six reported that conservative author Ronald Kessler will make similar claims in his forthcoming The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of The Presidents, apparently also based on anonymous sources.
While the rest of the media has largely ignored the anonymously-sourced gossip, Fox has been using interviews with Halper to promote these claims. Fox apparently has not attempted to confirm the gossip before promoting it on the network's airwaves.
Fox host Megyn Kelly asked Halper about Kessler's report -- which she noted was "unconfirmed" -- during a July 21 interview promoting Halper's book:
KELLY: On the mistress front there was a report from Breitbart -- it's actually from a new Ron Kessler book -- saying that Bill Clinton allegedly had some affair partner who they call the energizer bunny with whom he is still seeing, unconfirmed. You know, these ladies, whatever. Did you interview any of these?
HALPER: I interviewed some. And I can tell you aides told me that they had to advise Bill Clinton in the 2008 election not to bring his mistress on the campaign trail. So he is still engaging in reckless behavior.
As Media Matters has noted, Kelly's reputation allows her to provide a "veneer of legitimacy" that other Fox hosts cannot offer.
Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck also asked Halper during a July 22 interview how the "talk that there is still a mistress in play here" could affect a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run:
HASSELBECK: There has been some talk that there is still a mistress in play here. If that were to be the case, how would that affect Hillary's run in 2016?
HALPER: I'm sure it is and I'm sure there are more stories and more scandals to emerge. I try to cover as many -- you know, you have to make -- when you cover the Clintons, you have to make hard choices about which scandals and which mistresses to cover. So I have made mine in the book.
Three recent or upcoming books highlight the way an anti-Clinton cottage industry is trying to manipulate media vulnerabilities to smear Hillary and Bill Clinton.
This summer will see the publication of Daniel Halper's Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, Edward Klein's Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, and Ronald Kessler's The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of Presidents. Rush Limbaugh discussed all three books one after the other on July 22, commenting, "Do we really want to hand the country over to these people?"
While these books are catnip for Limbaugh and Fox News, all three should give credible media outlets reason to pause before amplifying their anecdotes.
Weekly Standard online editor Daniel Halper is currently making the media rounds to promote Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, which was published July 22 and seeks to "expose" the inner workings of the Clintons' "political machine" and their "unquenchable thirst for wealth and power." He has already appeared for interviews on his publisher's corporate cousin Fox News (on The Kelly File and Fox & Friends) to promote the book, which has been deemed the "'must buy' book of the summer" by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt and recommended by Karl Rove as the "next summer read."
Halper's book characterizes the Clintons as "dueling CEOs" whose primary goal is to make the Clinton "brand" profitable and politically powerful. He largely focuses on the well-trod period starting with Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign up to the present, with flashbacks to earlier periods in the Clintons' lives. Clinton, Inc.'s extended business metaphor barely holds together what is essentially a series of unrelated anecdotes and tired conservative tropes (as one critic points out, a right-wing author describing the Clintons as "calculating" does not make for a "groundbreaking revelation"). Many of his questionable anecdotes are provided anonymously -- "out of fear of retribution or attack from ruthless Clinton aides," according to Halper.
For example, Halper promotes a confusing, poorly-sourced, anonymous account to accuse former President Clinton of attempted rape. Halper claims he received exclusive access to never-before-seen documents about the Clintons collected by unnamed "investigators, attorneys, and other Lewinsky advisors" in the 1990s. Halper says that one of "the more promising and detailed nuggets" collected by the Lewinsky team is an allegation that Bill Clinton attempted to assault an unnamed woman near San Francisco in the 1970s. But the allegation does not come from the woman herself, who Halper says never pressed charges. It's based on claims from a "friend" of the woman, who is also unnamed. Halper's third-hand account doesn't explain when or how the unnamed friend became aware of the allegation, whether they had ever relayed the story to anyone other than a Lewinsky representative decades after the alleged crime, or why the Lewinsky team didn't follow up on the story. Nor does he indicate that he made any effort whatsoever to follow up on the claim himself -- even to determine whether the woman exists.
In another instance, Halper seeks to make the case that something happened to Hillary Clinton other than what her doctors told the public in December 2012 -- that she took a fall as the result of severe dehydration from a stomach bug, suffered a concussion, and was hospitalized for a blood clot in the brain, causing her to delay testifying to Congress about the Benghazi terrorist attacks. First, Halper baselessly posits that Clinton may have hit her head after falling down drunk. Invoking a "rumor" from "bloggers and websites" that Clinton drinks heavily, Halper points to "one well-known Clinton hater" for the claim the injury was the result of drinking -- citing no names. He then offers a contrary interpretation, writing that Clinton may have had a stroke but covered it up. He attributes this, variously, to "a number of reporters," "some on the right," "others," "reporters," and "one veteran reporter" -- not one of them named. Amid this discussion he concedes that "the revelation" may be untrue after all.
Fox News, The Weekly Standard, and Matt Drudge are hiding Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski's support for provisions in a disaster relief bill in order to attack Murkowski's Democratic colleague, Sen. Mark Begich (AK).
The Senate is debating a $60.4 billion relief bill to provide funding for clean-up in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy this week. The Governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have all endorsed a bill this size, but Republicans have reportedly threatened to block the bill if the proposed spending is not offset by cuts.
Right-wing media seized on some of the bill's provisions to call the bill an example of pork barrel spending even though the White House and Senate appropriators have said the vast majority of the spending in the bill is directly related to recovery from Hurricane Sandy. In particular, these media outlets have focused on a portion of the bill -- amounting to less than 0.3 percent of the total funds in the bill -- that provides money for states affected by disasters involving fisheries in the Northeast, Mississippi, and Alaska.
After misleadingly attacking the bill as a "scam" on Monday, Fox News' Fox & Friends First host Patti Ann Browne called the bill "packed with pork" and Fox Business correspondent Diane Macedo singled out Begich as a supporter of the fisheries provision.
But in order to suggest that this was a money grab by a Democratic senator, these outlets had to ignore the fact that Murkowski supported the fisheries provision too. Murkowski strongly praised the fisheries provision in a press release about the relief bill:
Alaska's Chinook fisheries were declared a disaster exactly three months ago, but no funds have been appropriated to help communities and businesses impacted yet. This bill will go a long way in providing federal resources to Alaskans who suffered economically because of this year's low King Salmon run get back on their feet.
Furthermore, the money will go to several states for which the Commerce Department declared disasters due to low catch rates and other problems: Mississippi, Rhode Island, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Alaska. And in Alaska, the declaration came as the result of a request by Republican Governor Sean Parnell.
Yesterday, the Weekly Standard ran a ridiculous hit piece on Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois, accusing him of misrepresenting his record. The attack follows Giannoulias' opponent Mark Kirk's false claim that he was awarded a top Navy award for service during NATO's conflict with Serbia. And his false claim that he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. And his claim that he came under fire aboard an aircraft in Iraq, which he reportedly said may not be true.
Kirk eventually said, ""I want to be very contrite and say there is a casualness with which I sometimes describe military details. And if it gave the impression that my military record is larger than it was, I want to apologize." (The old non-apology apology.)
So it was only a matter of time before the conservative noise machine fired back at Giannoulias' résumé. In a post titled, "Giannoulias's Embellishment", The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper pointed to an error on Giannoulias' official website. The website previously stated: "He [Giannoulias] founded and chairs the AG Foundation, a not-for-profit charity that donates money to treat child-related illnesses, curb poverty and assist disaster relief organizations."