Right-wing media and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump have been promoting former Secret Service officer Gary Byrne’s anti-Clinton book Crisis of Character, which argues that Hillary Clinton doesn’t have the temperament to be president. But media have discredited the book, finding that it’s a “rehash of old rumors,” there’s “holes in his story,” and his allegations are “contradicted by his own testimony.”
Trump And Right-Wing Media Have Latched Onto Latest Anti-Clinton Book
Byrne Released The Anti-Clinton Book Crisis of Character. Former Secret Service officer Gary Byrne released Crisis of Character on June 28. The book claims to show that Hillary Clinton’s temperament makes her unfit to be president. It also revisits decades-old conservative media conspiracy theories about the Clintons -- including regarding the death of White House aide Vince Foster -- and describes alleged encounters that occurred in the White House between President Clinton and various women. [Media Matters, 6/29/16]
Right-Wing Media And Donald Trump Have Promoted The Book. Right-wing media outlets such as the Drudge Report, Fox News, The Alex Jones Show, Breitbart.com, and the Daily Mail have promoted Byrne’s book. Trump has also repeatedly cited the book and promoted its accusations. [Media Matters, 6/22/16, 6/29/16]
Media: “Holes In His Story,” “Rehash Of Old Rumors,” “Will Have Virtually No [Political] Impact”
Politico Reported That Secret Service Veterans Say Byrne Is “Inflating His Role” And “Could Never Have Seen Any Of What He Claims.” Politico highlighted complaints about the book from “several high-level members of Secret Service presidential details,” who say Byrne is “inflating his role,” “could never have seen any of what he claims,” and is making “security harder by eroding the trust between agents and the people they protect.” The publication also first reported that the Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service is condemning the book, with the nonpartisan group stating that there “is no place for any self-moralizing narratives, particularly those with an underlying motive.” [Politico, 6/21/16; Media Matters, 6/21/16]
CNN Interviewed Former Secret Service Agent Who Said He “Can't Comprehend How A Uniformed Division Officer Could Ever Find Themselves In Those Situations.” CNN host Michael Smerconish interviewed former Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow, who cast strong doubt on Byrne’s book:
MICHAEL SMERCONISH: Is it conceivable to you that a uniformed agent could have seen the sort of things that he alleges having seen?
JONATHAN WACKROW: No. I mean, just from the pre-publication documents that are out, I can't comprehend how a uniformed division officer could ever find themselves in those situations to, you know, view what he is saying that he saw. [CNN, Smerconish, 6/25/16, via CNN.com]
BuzzFeed: Byrne’s Book Is “Contradicted By His Own Testimony.” BuzzFeed reporter Christopher Massie wrote:
Gary Byrne, a former Secret Service agent who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House, tells a dramatic story in his upcoming book about how he personally helped a White House steward dispose of towels stained by semen and lipstick to protect the president from a sex scandal.
That story, as well as another Byrne tells about walking in on Bill Clinton making out with a TV journalist, is different from what he told investigators from Kenneth Starr’s Office of the Independent Counsel in 1998, a BuzzFeed News review of interviews, depositions, and grand jury testimony has found. [BuzzFeed, 6/21/16]
Business Insider: Byrne Is “Struggling To Explain Holes In His Story.” Business Insider reporter Maxwell Tani wrote that “Byrne is having a hard time explaining some serious discrepancies in his account” about his “role during the investigation into President Bill Clinton's affair with then White House intern Monica Lewinsky. … a closer examination of Byrne's testimony revealed more disparities.” [Business Insider, 6/29/16]
Wash. Post: “There Are Reasons For The Media To Be Cautious About Amplifying Byrne's Claims.” Washington Post reporter Callum Borchers noted that “Byrne's book has, indeed, received scant attention — and what little coverage it has gotten from the likes of the New York Times has been largely negative and dismissive.” Borchers added that that's “not to say for certain that these events did not happen, but it's not hard to see media outlets viewing it as Byrne passing off old gossip as first-hand experience” and noted contradictions in Byrne’s previous testimony about his White House experience. Borchers then concluded that the book “might be racking up sales, but there are reasons for the media to be cautious about amplifying Byrne's claims. And that's precisely the approach they're taking.” [The Washington Post, 6/29/16]
NY Times’ Gail Collins: “His Juiciest Anecdotes Are Just A Rehash Of Old Rumors.” New York Times columnist Gail Collins criticized the book, writing that “Byrne was a low-ranking officer who could never have gotten near enough to the Clintons to see all the things he says he knew firsthand. His juiciest anecdotes are just a rehash of old rumors.” She also spoke to “a higher-ranking agent who had been on the Clinton security detail” who disputed Byrne’s accusations:
One of the legends Byrne rakes up is that Hillary mistreated her security detail. (He claims the first lady’s bullying drove some of his comrades to alcohol, drugs, prostitutes or — this is a little unusual — performance enhancers.) This is old gossip, but not everyone agrees.
“Those stories have always kind of been out there. I don’t know why; she’s more than pleasant,” said a higher-ranking agent who had been on the Clinton security detail. “I spent close to two years with her — most days, to be honest. I never found Mrs. Clinton to be anything but professional.”
Speaking in a phone interview, on the condition of anonymity, the agent said Hillary tended to get irritable mainly when the agents pushed people out of the way when she was walking, or stopped traffic for her when she was driving: “She’s just kind of someone who wants to swim with the fish. She didn’t like royal treatment.” [The New York Times, 6/23/16]
Political Analyst Larry Sabato: Book “Will Have Virtually No Impact One Way Or The Other.” The Daily Beast reported that Byrne has made “sensational, gossipy and widely disputed allegations” and asked, “could Crisis of Character influence the outcome of the Nov. 8 election? University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato says probably not.”
So, could Crisis of Character influence the outcome of the Nov. 8 election? University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato says probably not.
“He’s preaching to the faithful,” Sabato said. “It’s more fodder for those who hate Hillary anyway, and there are millions of them and have been since the early 1990s. The Republicans will be more determined to defeat and Hillary but it will have virtually no impact one way or the other. She’s been a figure on the national stage for decades, and people made up their minds about her years ago. It’s not going to change 10 votes.” [The Daily Beast, 6/27/16]