Former Ambassador: Clinton Cash Author Peter Schweizer Took My Comments “Badly Out Of Context”

Amb. Lyman To Media Matters: “That Quote Is Really Taken Badly Out Of Context -- He Left Off The Fact That [Clinton] Deserves A Lot Of Credit”

Princeton Lyman, who served as an ambassador under Republican and Democratic administrations, has rebuked Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer for taking his comments about the Clinton Foundation's work “badly out of context.”

Lyman has held numerous senior government positions, including ambassadorships to Nigeria and South Africa under President Reagan and President Clinton, respectively. He's now a senior advisor to the president of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Schweizer targets the Clinton Foundation's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in his forthcoming book. In a section wondering “how much good has the Clinton Foundation actually done,” Schweizer took issue with the foundation's statement that Bill Clinton has helped decrease the cost of HIV/AIDS drugs. 

As support for his rebuttal, Schweizer cited Lyman stating that Clinton “may take a little more credit than is due” on dropping drug prices. From pages 88-89 of the book, which Media Matters obtained ahead of its publication date:

At the Hollywood Bowl event, the publicity material included some sweeping claims about the Clinton Foundation's accomplishments. “Over the past ten years,” it reads, “President Clinton's vision and leadership have resulted in nearly 4 million people benefiting from lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatments.” This is perhaps the most popular and oft-repeated success of the foundation, and it stems from Bill's efforts to negotiate and help create an international system whereby the cost of treatment drugs for HIV/AIDS victims would be radically reduced. “We set out to organize a drug market to shift it from a high-margin, low volume, uncertain payment process ... we were able to lower the price to just under $140 a person a year.”

The claim is repeated when he is introduced for speeches around the country and when he is interviewed in the media. But what exactly does “we were able to lower” mean?

The Clinton Foundation did sign some compacts, but prices were already dropping quickly because generic versions of treatment drugs were coming on the market.  According to public health experts, the foundation piggybacked on the efforts of other organizations. “He may take a little more credit than is due,” admits Princeton Lyman, who served in the State Department under Hillary and dealt with issues related to HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Schweizer dishonestly took Lyman's remark out of context. Schweizer was quoting part of a sentence from the 2010 Clinton biography A Complicated Man. Schweizer excluded the conclusion of Lyman's sentence: “but he deserves a lot of credit.” Lyman added, “Clinton uses his [prestige] for good causes.” The following are Lyman's remarks, with the fragment Schweizer quoted in bold:

Princeton Lyman: He may take a little more credit than is due, because a lot of other people are working on these things, too, but he deserves a lot of credit. He's made it a big issue and he's done it.

And then he has the Clinton Global Initiative in New York every year. His personality is very important-- so much, it seems, is wrapped up in the prestige of his own person. But that's the advantage of being who he is. Every ex-president decides how he's going to use his prestige. Clinton uses his for good causes.

Lyman strongly condemned Schweizer's reporting, calling it a clear “misrepresentation” and saying “that quote is really taken badly out of context.”

“It clearly is a misrepresentation if he left out the second half of it because the Clinton Foundation did a lot to bring down the cost of AIDS drugs,” Lyman told Media Matters, which read the relevant book passages to him. “That was one of the big inhibiting factors in dealing with them in Africa. And it helped make other people's work much more effective.”

“Clearly, that quote is really taken badly out of context -- he left off the fact that he deserves a lot of credit. That makes a difference because the first half of the quote may have been something I was reacting to.”

Lyman disputed Schweizer's attacks on the Clinton Foundation's work, praising its efforts combating HIV/AIDS in Africa.

“I think it was very helpful, it was at a time when these issues of trade and purchases and prices were very, very complex and getting in the way of mass attacks on the number of people affected,” he said. “What the Clinton Foundation was doing with these pacts was to pave the way for what has now become a much more general marketplace whereby countries can get these drugs at a reasonable price.”

“When the foundation was doing it, a lot of these issues had not yet been resolved and those pacts I would say paved the way for a general resolution of these issues.”

Even before its release, Clinton Cash's allegations have fallen apart under scrutiny. This factual failure isn't surprising given Schweizer's long history of reporting marked by errors and retractions.