*Update: Later in the day, Rush Limbaugh also expressed skepticism about Klein's reporting.
Ed Klein, the utterly discredited “reporter” who once forwarded an allegation that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill raped Hillary, is back once again with a new book. Though his credibility is completely beyond repair after years of trafficking in lazy inaccuracies and salacious gossip, Klein is once again getting a boost from some conservative media outlets.
In Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, Klein details the “personal animosity” and “the jealousy and antipathy that divides the two most powerful Democratic families in the country.” If that sounds like the kind of book that conservative daydreams are made of, you're not far off. Klein's books are basically designed as a series of pre-packaged headlines for the Drudge Report (indeed, a supposed Klein scoop from Blood Feud about Hillary Clinton's purported terrible state of health is leading Drudge's site as of this writing).
Inevitably -- as they do with every Klein book, despite clear concerns about his credibility -- Fox News is devoting airtime to one of Klein's big new scoops. But Klein's sourcing is so sketchy that even Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade is calling foul.
On the June 23 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts broadcast Klein's allegation -- which was also reprinted in the New York Post -- that President Obama forced then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to blame the Benghazi attacks on a spontaneous demonstration rather than a terrorist attack, despite her better judgment.
According to Klein, Obama called Clinton the night of the attack to issue the directive. She then allegedly called her husband and discussed “various doomsday scenarios,” including her potential resignation.
Quoting from Klein's book, Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck recounted alleged lines from the conversation between Bill and Hillary Clinton, wherein the former president lamented how Obama “isn't going to allow anyone to say that terrorism has occurred on his watch.”
This too-good-to-be-true sourcing -- which, it should be noted, is the defining characteristic of everything Ed Klein writes -- was called out by Brian Kilmeade, who asked, “Now, who is his source? Chelsea? I mean, how would you possibly get in between them?”
Doocy answered, “According to the book, it is one of Hillary Clinton's legal advisers gave this information to Mr. Klein.”
The Fox hosts threw more cold water on Klein's story, citing conservative activist and former Republican congressional candidate Kenneth Timmerman to explain that the timing of Klein's storyline makes no sense. Rather than blame Klein's shoddy reporting, Doocy instead cited Timmerman to explain, “The reason the people reached out to Ed Klein and are pushing this fake story is simply to preserve and save her chance to run for president.” (Salon writer and former Media Matters employee Simon Maloy further lays out how Klein's Benghazi report is nonsensical and botches basic details.)
Klein has a history of shoddy work that has been repeatedly called out by conservative commentators, but he nonetheless gets free promotion from conservative outlets when he releases new books.
“Poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced” - Peggy Noonan on Ed Klein's Hillary Clinton book
Introducing today's Fox & Friends segment, Doocy described Klein as someone who “has been on this program for a number of years -- used to be over at Newsweek, won a bunch of awards.” That friendly biography leaves out the fact that while Klein did work for Newsweek, he's spent the past decade peddling Fox News-ready gossip about prominent Democrats.
Klein essentially nuked any goodwill he had among legitimate reporters with his 2005 book, The Truth About Hillary. In that book, Klein cited a series of anonymous sources to suggest, among other things, that Hillary Clinton was a secret lesbian and that Chelsea was conceived when Bill raped Hillary. In addition to odious gossip, the book was also packed with factual inaccuracies. The book was so thinly-sourced that it raised the ire of Sean Hannity, who called out Klein for having “no evidence” for his claims about Clinton's sexuality.
In 2010, Klein self-released a novel (based on “real stuff”) with conspiracy theorist and Fox News contributor John LeBoutillier. The book was about a CIA agent discovering that President Obama was a Manchurian Candidate born in Kenya. Despite its laughable premise, Fox & Friends gave Klein's co-author a platform to promote it. He used the opportunity to push long-debunked birther nonsense.
Before the 2012 election, Klein returned with The Amateur, a book about how Obama is unsuited for the presidency. Like his other books, it's filled with unverifiable gossip, factual inaccuracies, and reads more like political fan fiction than solid reporting. During their numerous reports promoting the book, several Fox News guests including Byron York, “Democratic strategist” Doug Schoen, and Wall Street Journal writer James Taranto called Klein's credibility into question - but that of course didn't stop the network from talking about it. After previously criticizing Klein, Hannity nonetheless gave him a platform to promote The Amateur.
As Think Progress has noted, over the last decade, Klein has repeatedly been criticized by conservative commentators. Writing about The Truth About Hillary, conservative commentator John Podhoretz wrote that after reading 200 pages, he “wanted someone to drive stakes through my eyes so I wouldn't have to suffer through another word.” WSJ writer Peggy Noonan called the book, “poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced and full of the kind of loaded language that is appropriate to a polemic but not an investigative work.”
In 2005, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, now with Fox News, reported on the cool reception The Truth About Hillary had gotten from television news outlets, including Fox. Kurtz notes that Hannity gave Klein rough treatment, and O'Reilly refused to host the author over his thinly-sourced claims. He quoted former Fox spokesman Paul Schur saying the book was “uninteresting to Fox News,” and that Klein had “kind of just fallen off everybody's radar screen.”
But almost ten years later, Klein can keep churning out shoddy books because he knows that even if they don't believe his reporting, outlets like Fox are willing to help him hit the bestseller list.
Rush Limbaugh repeatedly cast doubt on Klein's reporting today on his radio program. Discussing Klein's story about Bill Clinton and Barack Obama supposedly loathing each other, Limbaugh told listeners he wasn't “alleging it doesn't exist, it isn't true,” but nonetheless pointed out that “some of the quotes strike me as odd, in the sense that I don't know people who speak this way.” Later in the segment, he described a conversation written in the book as sounding like “grade school chatter.”
The fantastical nature of the dialogue between characters in Klein's books is nothing new. For example, in The Amateur, Klein recounts a supposed conversation between Bill and Hillary Clinton about potentially challenging Obama in the 2012 presidential primary that reads like dialogue from a middle school play:
“Why risk everything now?” Hillary demanded to know.
“Because,” Bill replied, “the country needs you!”
His voice was several decibels louder than necessary, and his nose was turning shades of red.
“The country needs us!” he shouted, banging a fist on his desk to drive home his point. [The Amateur, pg 6]