Boy Tyrrell: still writing bad fiction

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.'s new book, The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President's Life After The White House, follows in Tyrrell's tradition of smear books on the Clintons by featuring a series of unverified -- and, to the point of absurdity, poorly sourced -- claims about them.

On March 20, American Spectator founder and editor-in-chief R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is slated to release his new book on former President Bill Clinton, The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President's Life After The White House (Nelson Current). Anonymously sourced claims made in the book were featured on March 16 in the Washington Examiner, owned by conservative financier Phil Anschutz, in a review to which the Drudge Report linked with the headline: "'Conspiracy' comes back for Clintons; New Book Claims More Affairs..." Citing only “my sources,” Tyrrell claims in the excerpt featured by the Examiner that since Clinton left office, “there have been other ladies,” mostly, he says, in “one-night stands with hostesses on Clinton's speaking tours.” Tyrrell recycles salacious rumors of “tirades and flying objects, directed by [his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)] at Bill's defenseless skull,” and claims that "[t]here would be more spousal abuse during Clinton's retirement when his amours threatened Hillary's political longevity."

An advance copy of The Clinton Crack-Up obtained by Media Matters for America shows Tyrrell continuing in his own tradition of Clinton smear books by featuring a series of unverified -- and, to the point of absurdity, poorly sourced -- claims about the Clintons.

In a chapter named “The Ghost Ship,” Tyrrell claims “a forlorn Bill Clinton” was “a flesh and blood modern-day reenactment of The Flying Dutchman,” a legendary cursed ghost ship that is also featured in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Tyrrell details “grim evidence” of a “Clinton Curse,” and, recounting the death of the Clintons' dog Buddy, “a fixture in the Clinton family since joining it as a pup just before the Lewinsky scandal broke,” writes, “Even the animal world is not exempt from the Clinton Curse.” In a later chapter, Tyrrell elaborates further on the “Clinton Curse,” writing, “Its carnage has been awful, not just among Clinton's lackeys but even among the rich and powerful,” and “sluts and virgins alike often suffered dreadful misfortune.”

Tyrrell also baselessly speculates about Clinton sex tapes being acquired by foreign intelligence experts, writing, “What will happen if the tapes of President Clinton's phone sex with Monica (and probably others) make their way into the public domain, perhaps after being sold or leaked by the foreign intelligence agents who almost certainly have them?”

And, citing an anonymous police officer “during a September 2004 interview with anonymous interviewer” -- whatever that means -- he claimed regarding Denise Rich, ex-wife of financier Marc Rich, whom Clinton pardoned shortly before he left office:

In August 2001, in an unguarded moment of conversation with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, soon to be House Minority Leader, a currently serving Capitol Hill police officer standing two feet away heard Hillary snap, Bill “f

ed” Denise. [Page 78]

The excerpt made its way to a gossip column in the March 7, 2007, edition of the New York Daily News, and the account was “roundly denied by all parties.” A spokesman for Denise Rich said, “There is no truth to this story.”

Tyrrell has a long history of making wild claims about the Clintons in the Spectator and in previous anti-Clinton books he has written. Under his watch, the Spectator, once a little-known conservative monthly, sank to new lows, using tabloid journalism to smear the former president and first lady on a regular basis with no evidence. In his October 20, 1997, “Media Notes” column, Washington Post staff writer Howard Kurtz wrote:

The magazine has been staunchly conservative since Tyrrell and [co-founder Ronald] Burr launched it while they were at Indiana University. But in recent years, as its circulation has mushroomed from 30,000 to more than 200,000, the Spectator has dived headfirst into the scandal-mongering business, fueled in part by the [right-wing philanthropist Richard Mellon] Scaife donations.

Now the magazine, which broke the “Troopergate” story, runs such pieces as “Boy Clinton's Big Mama,” “The Clintons' Brewing Micro-Scandal,” “Hillary, the CIA & the Iraq Cover-Up” and “Fast Times at White House High.” Tyrrell himself has weighed in with two pieces on Bill Clinton's supposed ties to drug-running at the Mena, Ark., airport and another titled “Is Clinton on Coke?”

In the same column, Kurtz noted that the Spectator “has run stories on [Vincent] Foster's death, one of them by British journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard depicting it as an unsolved mystery.”

In his new book, Tyrrell does concede that Foster “killed himself.”

The Spectator's focus on what Kurtz described as “shadowy Arkansas scandals supposedly involving President Clinton” was a result of the so-called “Arkansas Project,” which, as The Atlantic Monthly wrote in its November 2001 issue, was “a $2.4 million effort, financed by Scaife, to uncover wrongdoing in Clinton's past, which ultimately led to the investigation of the Spectator itself.” Tyrrell, a Scaife aide and other conservative activists came up with the idea for the project on a 1993 fishing trip.

Indeed, the Spectator was the subject of a 14-month Justice Department investigation spurred by a March 18, 1998, article alleging that “David Hale, the key witness against President Clinton in Kenneth Starr's Whitewater investigation, received numerous cash payments from a clandestine anti-Clinton campaign funded by conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife.” Though the investigation did not result in any charges, the “Arkansas Project” was generally regarded as an expensive failure. According to a May 2, 1999, Washington Post article, the operation “skirted close to the tax laws, and failed to learn damaging information about Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

While in The Clinton Crack-Up, Tyrrell disputes the assertion that the “Arkansas Project” “failed to unearth any credible information,” neither of the two investigations to which he specifically referred -- of John Huang or James Riady -- led to charges being brought against the Clintons, much less to convictions. Indeed, none of the investigations of the Clintons led to any findings of criminal wrongdoing on their part. From The Clinton Crack-Up:

Also false is the claim that The American Spectator's Arkansas Project “failed to unearth any credible information.” Nothing in the Spectator has ever been disproved. Some of the magazine's stories inspired fruitful congressional investigations into Clinton; for instance, the magazine's early reports on Travelgate. What is more, the Spectator's reporting was helpful to other journalists. As William Safire wrote in a May 17, 2001, New York Times column, “I found early Spectator material useful in writing columns that helped trigger a reluctant investigation and ultimate conviction of both felons.” He was referring to fund-raising jugglers John Huang and James Riady.

Tyrrell authored several other anti-Clinton books, the first of which is Boy Clinton: The Political Biography (Regnery), published in 1996. In the book, Tyrrell recycled many of the same tabloid smears that originally appeared in Spectator articles. In a December 8, 1997, article for The Nation, Joe Conason, co-author with columnist Gene Lyons of The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton (Thomas Dunne Books, 2000) and now a columnist for and the New York Observer, wrote that Boy Clinton “includes a long and credulous exploration of charges that as Governor of Arkansas, Clinton benefited from 'a cocaine-smuggling ring operating out of an Arkansas airport' and was somehow behind a 'peculiar pattern' of deaths of certain former associates and enemies.” Conason described Tyrrell as “a controversial personage on the right because of his magazine's single-minded pursuit of supposed conspiracies connected to the Clintons.”

In a January 17, 2000, American Prospect article, Nicholas Confessore wrote of Boy Clinton:

Tyrrell's Boy Clinton follows the future president from alleged cocaine benders with Little Rock entrepreneur Dan Lasater to his sojourn with communists in Prague during the late 1960s. (“Inquiries I had made about his trip to Moscow turned up little that was new,” Tyrrell writes breathlessly. “People were still wondering where he had gotten sufficient funding for such a trip. Some still suspected a KGB front. Others suggested the CIA.”)

Boy Clinton's dust jacket summarizes, “He [Tyrrell] presents strong evidence, for instance, that Clinton knowingly benefited from the profits of a cocaine-smuggling ring operating out of an Arkansas airport. He also delves into the 'peculiar pattern' of deaths of people connected to the Clintons during their rise to power - a serious matter that has been too quickly dismissed with accusations of conspiracy-mongering.” From Boy Clinton:

The lawlessness of Arkansas had obviously come to afflict many in the Clinton administration, but what of the violence? That is a murky question entoiled in partisanship, usually the partisanship of the ideologically transfixed. The liberal diehards deride any suggestion of homicides, mysterious suicides, and mayhem; the right wing enthusiasts draw a line from every unnatural death in Arkansas directly to the Oval Office. Historians will someday settle the question as to whether the Arkansas machine had a hand in the untimely deaths that overcame the Clintons' friends, associates, distant acquaintances, and enemies during their rise to power. We do know that in the summer of 1994 the sober Economist listed eight unpleasant incidents in warning of the “peculiar pattern of suicides and violence” surrounding “people connected to the Clintons” [Page 140]

Later, in a May 21, 2003, column for The New York Sun, Tyrrell ridiculed the Clintons “and their most ardent apologists,” who he said “were left insisting that their critics were accusing them of murder and drug running.” Tyrrell apparently thinks there is a significant difference between accusing the Clintons of “murder and drug running,” which he implies is an accusation stemming entirely from the imaginations of the Clintons and their “apologists,” and what he wrote about the Clintons -- claiming that there was a "'peculiar pattern' of deaths of people connected to the Clintons" and that Clinton “knowingly benefited” from “a cocaine-smuggling ring.” From Tyrrell's column:

In the end, the Clintons and their most ardent apologists were left insisting that their critics were accusing them of murder and drug running. I did not make this up. Mr. Clinton says it himself from time to time from a dais, and no one notices the sleight of hand. To find someone accusing the Clintons of these enormities one has to take one's butterfly net to the farthest reaches of politics. There some glassy-eyed loon may indeed accuse Mr. Clinton of killing Vince Foster or poisoning his cat. There are those zanies who insist Mr. Clinton was a drug runner, possibly at Mena Airport, possibly in the White House mess. But no sensible journalist I know of ever made such charges. The Clintons and their loyal defenders would have you believe that the charges were common fare among conservatives. Show me the citations.

In 1997, Tyrrell co-authored an account of a fictionalized Clinton impeachment called The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton (Regnery). The novel, which blended fact and fiction, was published the year before real-life impeachment proceedings began against Clinton. In a December 19, 1997, article for the Forward -- headlined “Bernard Nussbaum Rebuts a Novel Impeachment: R. Emmett Tyrrell Shows His Primary Colors in a Semi-Futuristic Fantasy” -- Nussbaum, a former White House counsel under Clinton, wrote:

In the case of Mr. Clinton, Mr. Tyrrell fantasizes about specific criminal violations and imagines some smoking gun tapes being produced at the last minute. The thing to remember as one reads this novel is that the tapes about which he fantasizes don't exist. Nor do such scandals as “Travelgate” or “Filegate” or “Whitewatergate,” which take up so much of Mr. Tyrrell's novel... In the end, one has to conclude that the reason Mr. Tyrrell has resorted to fantasy is that years of reporting by his magazine and by others have failed to come up with anything that would force the hand of anyone looking at these matters, whether it be the independent counsel or the House of Representatives.

In 2004, Tyrrell co-authored a book that attacked Hillary Clinton, Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House (Regnery). The book was a commercial failure. According to a June 26, 2006, New Republic article:

In fact, after years of harping on Clinton's days as a student activist at Wellesley, conservatives even appear tired of the notion that she's a liberal ideologue. In Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House (9,000 copies), R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. couldn't captivate readers with his dissection of her early political influences (such as Saul Alinsky) or his argument that she would start 'a national Cambodian re-education camp for anyone caught wearing an Adam Smith necktie or scarf.'

Tyrrell also writes a column that appears in The American Spectator and The New York Sun, which regularly features Clinton smears. In recent columns, Tyrrell has written that Hillary Clinton "is a renowned liar and a bully to boot" and that Bill and Hillary Clinton “are two of the most inveterate liars in American political history." He also wrote that Bill Clinton “ran his campaigns with foreign money and his office like a heterosexual Mark Foley” and that "[t]he sudden whitening of his [Clinton's] hair since his retirement from the White House and shrinkage of his once fleshy physique should admonish voluptuaries everywhere of the potential health threats from recreational sex."

From The Clinton Crack-Up:

“On he went, a forlorn Bill Clinton, a flesh and blood modern-day reenactment of The Flying Dutchman, that spectral ship of legend, that roams the world from port to port, a dreadful curse upon it. Though in Clinton's case, it was not so much a curse that was upon him as a ringing in his ears: Hillary's rant: ”Avoid Rich Babes!"

Sir Walter Scott, in his note to Rokeby, sees the ghostly vessel as a ship plying the seas, bringing eerie calamity to those it encounters. Clinton, too, was a Ghost Ship, driven from home by an angry wife and an irate public. As for calamity, both Clintons have a history of having brought eerie calamity to friend and foe alike.

There has always seemed to be a strange curse attending the Clintons. So many of their friends and associates have suffered instant catastrophe. The sad fate of the McDougals, one dead and the other in the clink, is grim evidence of this Clinton Curse. So is the fall of Webb Hubbell from high office in the Justice Department to jail and disgrace. Hillary's old law partner was not even repristinated with a last-minute pardon. Another of her law partners, Vince Foster, was the Curse's most tragic victim. Once Hillary's lover, he found himself overwhelmed and rejected in the turbulence of the Clinton White House. Fearing he had failed his friends as White House lawyer, and doubtless stung by Hillary's coldness, he killed himself. Almost all the Clintons' Arkansas pals went down. Even some of their White House staffers suffered the Clinton Curse. As for the Curse's effect on the Clinton's enemies, I leave that for chapter four. [Page 53]


In the first week of his retirement he suffered another famous fall after going out on the driveway at Chappaqua to throw a tennis ball for Buddy, his chocolate Labrador. Still the clumsy kid forever teased by his Arkansas classmates (his public jogs during the presidency were always studies in slow motion), Clinton tripped over the dog and fell to the ground. “You guys got a good shot,” he whined to nearby reporters. “That's the first time he's knocked me down in all the time we've been together.” Well, most probably it was not the first time; but it may have been the last. A year later, almost to the day, Buddy, having been abandoned by his absentee owners, was hit by a car after bolting from the house. Only the Secret Service's backup team was around to take the ex-presidential dog to the Chappaqua Animal Hospital. There Buddy, a fixture in the Clinton family since joining it as a pup just before the Lewinsky scandal broke, was pronounced dead. Even the animal world is not exempt from the Clinton Curse. At the time, the Clintons were in Acapulco. Soon thereafter, Buddy's bereaved owner was off to Dubai, $300K; Cairo, $175K; back to Dubai, $300K; on to Tel Aviv, $150K. After Tel Aviv he returned home briefly, then on to Palo Alto, $125K, and to Santa Barbara, $125K. There he ended the sad month, dogless but much closer to the millions he envisaged." [Page 58]


“What will happen if the tapes of President Clinton's phone sex with Monica (and probably others) make their way into the public domain, perhaps after being sold or leaked by the foreign intelligence agents who almost certainly have them? The Starr Report states that... ”After phone sex late one night, the President fell asleep, mid-conversation." But did foreign intelligence eavesdroppers -- most likely from France, Israel, and Russia -- fall asleep? Intelligence experts know that the aforementioned countries had the capacity to snatch these calls from the airways, which summons another thought. The most controversial recipient of a Clinton pardon, Marc Rich, was close to agents from at least one of these countries, possibly all three." [Pages 70-71]


“As we have seen, many bystanders in the Clintons' lives have suffered misfortune, many without breaking any laws whatsoever. All they had to do was be in the neighborhood when the Clinton death wagon lumbered by. Hubbell and McDougal broke the law, but they have probably also been a part of this mysterious phenomenon, the Clinton Curse. Its carnage has been awful, not just among Clinton's lackeys but even among the rich and powerful.” [Pages 97-98]


“Clinton cannot blame all this carnage on an independent counsel. Something larger, more mysterious, is going on. Many of the Clintons' Arkansas enemies suffered almost as terribly as their Arkansas friends. To list them would take more pages than could comfortably be bound into a one-volume work. Doubtless some were as worthy of diabolical retribution as Hillary would have us think, but what of the unsuspecting women who caught Billy's eye? Some, of course, were sluts; but many were true ladies, totally innocent of unchaste thoughts. Nonetheless, sluts and virgins alike often suffered dreadful misfortune.” [Pages 98-99]