In a FrontPageMag.com column, Dick Morris purported to offer “corrections” to President Clinton's “syrupy five minute ad” for Sen. Hillary Clinton. But Morris made no fewer than seven different claims about the video or Sen. Clinton that contained outright falsehoods or are contradicted by other sources.
In his August 9 FrontPageMag.com online column, Fox News contributor and nationally syndicated columnist Dick Morris purported to offer “corrections” to former President Bill Clinton's “syrupy five minute ad” for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), a video appearing on hillaryclinton.com. However, in his 951-word column, Morris made no fewer than seven different claims about the video or about Sen. Clinton that contained outright falsehoods or are contradicted by other sources.
Morris has an extensive history of making false or misleading claims in his columns and television appearances, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, and has signaled his intention to try to "Swift Boat" Clinton. As syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak wrote in his January 20 column, Morris “is asking for a contribution between $25 and $100 or more to finance a critical film documentary of Sen. Hillary Clinton.” Despite his repeated falsehoods and fundraising against a presidential candidate, outlets such as The Hill and the New York Post continue to publish his columns.
1. Hillary Clinton's plans to run for public office
In his column, Morris wrote:
Bill says: Hillary never wanted to run for public office, but she did want to work at public service.
The true facts are: When Clinton was considering not running for another term as Governor of Arkansas in 1990, Hillary said she would run if he didn't. She and Bill even had me take two surveys to assess her chances of winning. The conclusion was that she couldn't win because people would just see her as a seat warmer for when Bill came back licking his wounds after losing for president. So she didn't run. Bill did and won. But there is no question she had her eye on public office, as opposed to service, long ago.
In fact, what Bill Clinton actually said in the video on her website is "[w]hen we met, over 35 years ago in law school, I was interested in public office, but she wasn't. She thought she'd never run for anything. She was just interested in public service." Bill Clinton did not claim that “Hillary never wanted to run for public office,” as Morris stated he did. He merely said that in law school, he had ambitions to hold “public office,” but she did not. Bill Clinton made no mention of whether she considered running for “Governor of Arkansas in 1990.”
2. Hillary Clinton's work for the poor during law school
Bill says: In law school Hillary worked on legal services for the poor.
The true facts are: Hillary's main extra-curricular activity in law school was helping the Black Panthers, on trial in Connecticut for torturing and killing a federal agent. She went to court every day as part of a law student monitoring committee trying to spot civil rights violations and develop grounds for appeal.
But, according to Carl Bernstein in A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Random House, June 2007), Hillary Clinton did in fact “work on legal services for the poor” while in law school. Bernstein wrote that, in addition to working for the Washington Research Project, where she researched the working and living conditions of poor, migrant families, Clinton worked for the National Legal Services Program, a federally funded program providing free legal services to low income Americans. According to Bernstein, Clinton “represented a black foster mother in her fifties who had cared for a two-year-old since the child was born” and who was trying to adopt the child. “Hillary and [legal aid lawyer Penn] Rhodeen drafted a lawsuit against the state” of Connecticut, which was enforcing a law prohibiting foster parents from adopting, and “lost.”
3. Hillary Clinton's internship with Treuhaft
Bill says: Hillary spent a year after graduation working on a children's rights project for poor kids.
The true facts are: Hillary interned with Bob Truehaft [sic], the head of the California Communist Party. She met Bob when he represented the Panthers and traveled all the way to San Francisco to take an internship with him.
In fact, Bill Clinton never said that “Hillary spent a year after graduation working on a children's rights project for poor kids.” What he actually said was that, prior to graduating from law school, Hillary Clinton “took an extra year at the Yale Child Study Center and the Yale University hospital to study about children and the law.” Further, contrary to Morris's suggestion that she worked for Treuhaft for a year after graduation, it was during a summer while Hillary Clinton was in law school that she worked for Treuhaft, according to her autobiography.
Unlike in his FrontPageMag.com column, Morris made clear in his book on Hillary Clinton, Rewriting History (ReganBooks, 2004), that Treuhaft was not a member of the Communist Party when Clinton interned for his firm. In the book, Morris wrote that Treuhaft “left” the Communist Party in 1956 -- 15 years before Clinton interned for him in 1971. (According to his New York Times obituary, Treuhaft left the Communist Party “by 1958.”) Moreover, in mentioning Treuhaft's ties to the California Communist Party in the column, Morris does not include the disclaimer that he does include in Rewriting History: “Hillary was no Communist, nor should her work in the Treuhaft firm imply that she was” (page 105).
4. Hillary Clinton's Legal Services Corporation appointment
Bill says: President [Jimmy] Carter appointed Hillary to the Legal Services Board of Directors and she became its Chairman.
The true facts are: The appointment was in exchange for Bill's support for Carter in his 1980 primary against Ted Kennedy. Hillary became chairman in a coup in which she won a majority away from Carter's choice to be chairman.
But Carter nominated Hillary Clinton to the board of the Legal Services Corporiation on December 12, 1977, more than two years before the “1980 primary against Ted Kennedy.” Kennedy did not announce his candidacy to challenge Carter as the 1980 Democratic presidential nominee until November 1979.
Further, contrary to Morris's claim that Carter appointed Hillary Clinton to the board solely “in exchange for Bill's support,” Bernstein wrote that her appointment “was based on merit, as well as her political service to Carter in Indiana and Bill's in Arkansas.” Bernstein also reported that "[a] few months" after being nominated to the Legal Services Corporation's board:
Carter named her to chair the board. After confirmation by Congress, she became the first woman ever to hold the position. Carter's choice was deft .... By the time Hillary's term as chairperson expired in 1982, funding for the Legal Services Corporation had grown from $90 million to $300 million. She had not only saved the concept of federal funding for legal aid to the poor, but she had done it with crucial assistance from [Vince] Foster working under her direction and going to court to defend the prerogatives she enunciated.
Both Bill and Hillary Clinton made similar claims in their respective autobiographies, Bernstein noted (page 132). In Living History, Hillary Clinton wrote that “based on my experience and my work on his campaign, President Carter had appointed me to the board of the Legal Services Corporation, a position for which I had to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate” (page 83). After discussing a legal clinic Hillary Clinton started in Arkansas for the poor, Bill Clinton wrote that "[i]n the process, Hillary earned the respect of our legal community, helped a lot of folks who needed it, and established the record that, a few years later, led President Carter to appoint her to the board of directors of the national Legal Services Corporation" (page 232). In Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Little, Brown & Co., June 2007), authors Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. noted that “Hillary had already worked on behalf of lower-income clients, but her work for Carter's 1976 presidential campaign was also a key factor behind her nomination” (page 79).
5. “Hillary was the face of America all over the world”
Bill says: Hillary was the face of America all over the world.
The true facts are: Her visits were part of a program to get her out of town so that Bill would not appear weak by feeding stories that Hillary was running the White House. Her visits abroad were entirely touristic and symbolic, and there was no substantive diplomacy on any of them.
Again, Morris falsely reported what Bill Clinton says in the campaign video. Contrary to Morris' claim, Bill Clinton did not say that Hillary Clinton was engaged in diplomacy efforts “all over the world.” Rather, Bill Clinton noted that Hillary Clinton “went to 82 other countries representing the United States” and specifically discussed Hillary Clinton's presence “in Africa” and “in India” during his “first term” and her speech at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Clinton stated: “In my first term, Hillary was, in effect, the face of America, in Africa, in India. She went to Bejing at the International Woman's conference and gave an unbelievable speech.” He added: “Now that she's in public office and I'm just in public service, working on AIDS and development around the world, I still meet people in villages in Africa, Asia, Latin America, who say to me, you'll never know how much your wife's speech in Bejing meant to us.” Hillary Clinton represented the United States at the Bejing conference and gave a speech which focused on, in her words, “issues that matter most in the lives of women and their families: access to education, health care, jobs, and credit, the chance to enjoy basic legal and human rights and participate fully in the political life of their countries.”
6. “Hillary was an excellent Senator who kept fighting for children's and women's issues”
Bill says: Hillary was an excellent Senator who kept fighting for children's and women's issues.
The true facts are: Other than totally meaningless legislation like changing the names on courthouses and post offices, she has passed only four substantive pieces of legislation. One set up a national park in Puerto Rico. A second provided respite care for family members helping their relatives through Alzheimer's or other conditions. And two were routine bills to aid 9-11 victims and responders which were sponsored by the entire NY delegation.
Morris is likely referring to Bill Clinton's comments about Hillary Clinton's accomplishments as senator, including that “she worked on children's health.” In the video, Bill Clinton stated:
When she became a senator, she immediately went to work on solutions to American problems, and she worked with Republicans as well as Democrats on things like climate change, better health care for our veterans, making electronic medical record available to cut the incredible waste in our health care system. She worked on children's health.
Yet, in claiming that Clinton “has passed only four substantive pieces of legislation,” Morris is cherry-picking Clinton's legislative accomplishments. As Media Matters for America has previously noted, Clinton has also reportedly been instrumental in the passage of legislation for which she was not the lead sponsor. For instance, among the legislative accomplishments listed on Clinton's presidential campaign website is “her work to ensure the safety of prescription drugs for children, with legislation now included in the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act” -- a reference to the Pediatric Research Equity Act of 2003 (S. 650), which, according to her Senate website, “gives the FDA the authority to ensure that drugs marketed to pediatric populations have first been tested on children.” The legislation became law on December 3, 2003. The Post-Standard of Syracuse, New York reported on December 18, 2003, that "[Dr. Richard] Gordon [chair of the Committee on Drugs for the American Academy of Pediatrics] praised the bipartisan effort in Congress, and Clinton's work in particular, for moving quickly to pass the bill." In a July 23, 2003, floor statement, then-Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH), who was the lead sponsor on the bill, said: “I would like to thank [then-]Majority Leader [Bill] Frist [R-TN] and Senators Clinton, [Chris] Dodd [D-CT], [Judd] Gregg [R-NH], [Edward M.] Kennedy [D-MA], and [Patty] Murray [D-WA] for their leadership on this issue. Without their support, this bill would not be a reality.” On March 27, 2007, Clinton introduced legislation that would make permanent the “Pediatric Rule.”
She is also the lead sponsor of a bill to allow states to broaden the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover legal immigrants that has 12 cosponsors including Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME). Most of the language in the bill was included in the House-passed version of the SCHIP reauthorization bill but not the Senate-passed version. These bills await action by a House-Senate conference to resolve the differences between the bills. She has also sponsored and a bill to “grant states the option to expand coverage of children whose family income is any percentage up to 400% of the poverty-line.” Regarding medical records, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle stating that he was working with Hillary Clinton and other senators to ensure that “the entire country should have the highest quality care we can afford, along with electronic medical records such as those used by the VA [Veterans Administration].” The bipartisan legislation passed in the Senate, but died in the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health.
After going through the hillaryclinton.com video, Morris went on to say: “Here's what bothers me more than anything else about Hillary Clinton. She has done everything possible to weaken the President and our country when it comes to the war on terror” and listed purported examples to prove this point. However, these examples included at least one more falsehood.
7. Hillary Clinton “wants to eliminate the monitoring of suspected al Qaeda phone calls”
Morris falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton “wants to eliminate the monitoring of suspected Al Qaeda phone calls to/from the USA.” As Media Matters has previously noted, Clinton stated her opposition to the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program when the program was first exposed, saying that the administration should follow the “existing law that allows” secret surveillance of terrorist suspects, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). A January 25 CBSNews.com article quoted Clinton in the issue:
“Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists. I think that's our obligation. But I think it can be done in a lawful way,” she said. “Their argument that it's rooted in the Constitution inherently is kind of strange because we have FISA and FISA operated very effectively and it wasn't that hard to get their permission.”
In a June 16 speech, Clinton also stated:
CLINTON: [T]he president -- and I mean any president -- must have the ability to pursue terrorists and defend our national security with the best technology at hand. But we have existing law that allows that -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or so-called FISA. We have judicial mechanisms in place that this administration could have used to obtain authority for what it did; we have a system of congressional oversight and review that this administration could have used to obtain a legislative solution to these challenges.
Instead, they relied on questionable legal authority and bypassed our system of checks and balances.
As Media Matters has repeatedly documented, Morris has a history of making false or misleadingly claims in his various columns and during his numerous television appearances. For instance:
- In a June 28 column co-authored with Eileen McGann, Morris falsely suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) -- whose husband owns up to $15,000 in Alcatel-Lucent stock -- previously owned stock in “Alcatel SA.” In fact, a search of Pelosi's financial disclosure filings dating back to 1996 revealed no evidence that she ever purchased stock in Alcatel S.A. Rather, her husband, Paul Pelosi, purchased stock in Lucent Technologies in 1999. Lucent Technologies then merged with Alcatel S.A. in 2006 and, as a result of that merger, Paul Pelosi now owns stock in Alcatel-Lucent, as personal financial disclosure reports filed by Pelosi in 2006 and 2007 show.
- On the December 18, 2006, edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, Morris falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has “never introduced a bill” in Congress. In fact, according to the Library of Congress' THOMAS legislative database, Obama was the primary sponsor of 152 bills and resolutions introduced in the last Congress, including a bill (S.2125) that passed Congress on December 8, 2006, “to promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” which he introduced on December 16, 2005. The bill was signed by the president and became law on December 22, 2006. In addition, three nonbinding resolutions sponsored by Obama have passed the Senate, and 14 bills that he has co-sponsored have become law.
- In his January 17 column for The Hill, Morris falsely reported that Obama voted against an amendment to a Senate ethics reform bill that would have prohibited legislators from hiring family members to their campaign committees and political action committees. He then asserted that Clinton “will probably use the Illinois senator's vote against him in the presidential primaries.” After Media Matters noted that his accusation of Obama was false, Morris apologized and retracted the column.