Media commentators are criticizing presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump for reviving the “absurd” and “kooky” conspiracy theory that the Clintons were involved in the death of former White House aide Vince Foster.
Trump Revives Conspiracy Theory That Clintons Were Involved In Former White House Aide Vince Foster’s Death
Wash. Post: Trump “Reviving” Conspiracy Theory That “Circumstances Of Foster’s Death ‘Very Fishy.’” A May 23 Washington Post article reported that “Donald Trump is reviving” conspiracy theories that Bill and Hillary Clinton were involved in the 1993 death of former White House aide Vince Foster, “which has been ruled a suicide by law enforcement officials and a subsequent federal investigation” but “remains the focus of intense and far-fetched conspiracy theories.” Trump reportedly “called theories of possible foul play ‘very serious’ and the circumstances of Foster’s death ‘very fishy.’” [The Washington Post, 5/23/16]
Federal Investigation “Concluded That Foster’s Death … Was A Suicide.” A July 1, 1994, Washington Post article said that a federal investigation conducted by “four lawyers, five physicians, seven FBI agents, approximately 125 witnesses” using “DNA tests, microscopes and lasers” “concluded that Foster's death in Fort Marcy Park last July was a suicide.” The article noted, as many other investigations and inquiries into the incident have, that “Foster's death was a personal collapse, not a White House scandal.” [The Washington Post, 7/1/94; Media Matters, 7/18/07]
Media Call Out Trump For Reviving “Absurd” “Nonsense” About Foster’s Death
MSNBC Producer Steve Benen: “Trump’s Affinity For Absurd Conspiracies … Could Be Quite Dangerous In The Oval Office.” MSNBC producer Steve Benen criticized Trump for “speculating about nonsense he doesn’t fully understand,” writing that Trump’s invocation of Vince Foster’s death shows “the would-be Republican president just can’t get enough of conspiracy theories, no matter how silly.” Benen explained, “Trump’s affinity for absurd conspiracies isn’t some odd quirk to his personality. It’s the filter through which he sees the world – and it’s a quality that could be quite dangerous in the Oval Office where sound judgment and critical thinking skills are an absolute necessity.” From the May 24 article, posted on The MaddowBlog:
The presumptive Republican nominee, true to form, went on to tell the Post, “I don’t bring [Foster’s death] up because I don’t know enough to really discuss it. I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don’t do that because I don’t think it’s fair.”
This is, of course, classic Trump. He concedes he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but he’s nevertheless comfortable speculating about nonsense he doesn’t fully understand.
There’s no point in rehashing old, ridiculous claims; Foster’s death was carefully investigated at the time and the right-wing conspiracy theories were thoroughly discredited. Instead, what matters now is understanding how the presumptive GOP nominee thinks – and as his Foster comments show, the would-be Republican president just can’t get enough of conspiracy theories, no matter how silly.
Trump’s affinity for absurd conspiracies isn’t some odd quirk to his personality. It’s the filter through which he sees the world – and it’s a quality that could be quite dangerous in the Oval Office where sound judgment and critical thinking skills are an absolute necessity.
Arguing that Vince Foster’s death was “very fishy,” and conspiracy theories deserved to be taken “seriously” was ridiculous in the 1990s. This nonsense hasn’t improved with age. [MSNBC.com, The MaddowBlog, 5/24/16]
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough: Trump's Invocation Of Conspiracy Theories About Clinton Aide's Death Is "About As Low As It Goes.” MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough slammed Trump for bringing up conspiracy theories surrounding Foster’s death, calling Trump’s comments “about as low as it goes” and saying that his remarks made “one of the uglier days in recent American political history.” Co-anchor Willie Geist said of the comments, “Yeah, we’re in 1993 conspiracy theory territory right now.” From the May 24 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Willie, you and I are going to get through this, which may be one of the uglier days in recent American political history. I say that because of what happened yesterday. We knew that the Bill Clinton allegations were coming. We didn't think they would come this early or this hard, but the Vince Foster charges, bringing those up and casting a light on suspicious activities behind an aide's death, that's about as low as it goes and I'm shocked it's already happening in May.
WILLIE GEIST (CO-HOST): Yeah, we're in 1993 conspiracy theory territory right now. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 5/24/16]
Wash. Post’s Daily 202: Trump Broached Theory Common In “The Conspiracy-Minded Fever Swamps Of The Internet.” The Washington Post’s James Hohmann wrote in the paper’s daily email blast that although “Foster’s 1993 death was ruled a suicide by law enforcement and a subsequent federal investigation,” Trump has raised doubts about his death, “something that the conspiracy-minded fever swamps of the Internet continue to claim the Clintons had a hand in.” From The Washington Post’s The Daily 202:
-- The presumptive Republican nominee has even broached the suicide of White House aide Vincent Foster, something that the conspiracy-minded fever swamps of the Internet continue to claim the Clintons had a hand in. “It’s the one thing with her, whether it’s Whitewater or whether it’s Vince or whether it’s Benghazi. It’s always a mess with Hillary,” Trump told The Post in an interview last week.
Foster’s 1993 death was ruled a suicide by law enforcement and a subsequent federal investigation. Asked about the Foster case, [“]Trump dealt with it as he has with many edgy topics,” Jose A. DelReal and Robert Costa report, “raising doubts about the official version of events even as he says he does not plan to talk about it on the campaign trail.”
Trump called theories of possible foul play “very serious” and the circumstances of Foster’s death “very fishy.”
“He had intimate knowledge of what was going on,” Trump said. “He knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide. … I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don’t do that because I don’t think it’s fair.” [The Washington Post, 5/24/16]
CNN's Ashleigh Banfield On Foster's Death: “My God, Please,” “It Has Been Investigated To The Hilt ... There Was Not An Ounce Of Truth To It.” CNN host Ashleigh Banfield slammed Trump for bringing up the Foster conspiracy theory, saying, “My God, please. If you hear anything about the Clintons being responsible for the death of Vince Foster, he committed suicide, it's been proven over over over over over.” Banfield also noted, “It has been investigated to the hilt by the feds, by the local authorities, CNN did our own investigation. There was not an ounce of truth to it.” CNN host Brian Stelter also said that it's important for media to “look in the camera and say there's no evidence of this. This is not true.” From the May 24 edition of CNN's Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield:
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD (HOST): So one of the stories that Trump is circulating is, he's bringing up an old story from the '90s about Vince Foster. He was close to the Clintons. Worked with the Clintons during the Travelgate. I believe he was general counsel, I'll have to go back and check it because even I can't remember back that far, but he's suggesting that the suicide of Vince Foster was somehow fishy and there are all these conspiracy theorists who have said it's murder. It has been investigated to the hilt by the feds, by the local authorities, CNN did our own investigation. There was not an ounce of truth to it. If you want to believe all those pesky feds and cops and media people who look into these things --
BRIAN STELTER: Yeah you made a good point. It's not just the federal government that investigated. Law enforcement agencies. Also news outlets like CNN that put this to rest a long, long time ago. And yet, one of the consequences of this digital age is that these rumors do fester online. They do get forwarded around on those email chains you mentioned and as a result, someone like Trump is able to inject them back into the public discourse in a way that we just have not seen before with presidential campaigns. I think it is important to do what you just did, look in the camera and say there's no evidence of this. This is not true.
BANFIELD: Three times investigated. If you're just tuning in, my god, please, if you hear anything about the Clintons being responsible for the death of Vince Foster, he committed suicide, it's been proven over over over over over. I don't know how many -- unless God comes down and tells you to your face, the truth is there. [CNN, Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield, 5/24/16]
Even Right-Wing Media Are Criticizing Trump’s Flirtation With Foster Conspiracy Theory
Conspiracy Theorist Glenn Beck Mocked Trump’s Foster Conspiracy Theory. Right-wing pundit and conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck mocked Trump’s comments about Foster’s death, saying, “we were joking on the air yesterday, how long before he gets to the list of the people that the Clintons have killed. Well, yesterday, he started with Vince Foster.” From the May 24 edition of CNN’s New Day:
GLENN BECK: I think if anybody said on any angle from any side that they weren't surprised by everything that they have seen in this election, I think they'd be lying to you. I'm surprised daily. Yesterday, we were just saying, in a joking fashion, because the first thing -- this is going to be a highly entertaining race -- the first ad that comes out, he calls Bill Clinton a rapist, and we were joking on the air yesterday, how long before he gets to the list of the people that the Clintons have killed. Well, yesterday, he started with Vince Foster.
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): And just to be clear, Vince Foster committed suicide. There are conspiracy theories, I mean, you know -- I know you were using a shorthand there.
BECK: I'm not -- we were joking about how long it -- we've talked about that list of I don't even know what it is, 40 people that they killed, in a joking fashion.
CAMEROTA: That's the conspiracy theory.
BECK: How long would it take?
CAMEROTA: Sure, sure, I get it.
BECK: Right, yeah. [CNN, New Day, 5/24/16]
Conservative Pundit Nicolle Wallace: These Conspiracy Theories “Speak Directly To Donald Trump’s State Of Mind.” You Don’t Win “By Drudging Up Conspiracy Theories.” Conservative pundit and Morning Joe regular Nicolle Wallace said that Trump’s invocation of conspiracy theories surrounding Foster’s death “speak[s] directly to Donald Trump's state of mind,” linking it to his tendency not to “read anything other than his own Twitter feed.” Wallace said, “But to win over the swath of voters that you need to put you over the top … you don't do it by drudging up conspiracy theories.” From the May 24 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
NICOLLE WALLACE: I think it's good that we spend a beat talking about this not because the substance of these attacks are worthy of any air time, but because they speak directly to Donald Trump's state of mind. And I think the word inside the Trump campaign is that the greatest concern is how you get him to want to learn about the intricacies of foreign policy. How do you get him to read anything other than his own Twitter feed.
But to win over the swath of voters that you need to put you over the top, to narrow the gender gap among women, you don't do it by drudging up conspiracy theories. There is a consistent strains of Donald Trump's brief political life, and it runs through sort of giving legs and voice to the birther movement, to demanding to see Donald Trump’s birth certificate --
WILLIE GEIST: Barack Obama’s
WALLACE: Barack Obama, I’m sorry. To dredging up the Clinton infidelities, and now Vince Foster. And if you are animated by those topics, you are already for Trump. So to win over new voters, the kind of new voters you need to win a general election, you got to move off this stuff. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 5/24/16]
RedState’s Leon Wolf: “Reasonable People Clearly Indicate That They Don’t Believe In This Crap And Move On With Their Lives.” Managing editor of RedState Leon Wolf slammed Trump for bringing up the “crap” conspiracy theory of Foster’s death, and bemoaned that “Trump’s M.O. with literally every conspiracy theory … is to say, ‘Hey, I’m just bringing up concerns other people have.’” Wolf also noted, “There’s a reason that people like Alex Jones exist, and that’s because a person who believes one insane conspiracy will most likely believe them all.” [RedState, 5/23/16]
Former Bush Aide: “It's Only May & Trump Is Invoking Death Of Vince Foster ( “Very Fishy” ). Predictable, Tiresome, Kooky. Rs Must Be So Proud Of Their Nominee.”
Conservative Media Figures Have Long Given Credence To Foster Conspiracy Theories
Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Megyn Kelly, And Others Have Used Their Shows As Platforms To Air Foster Conspiracy Theories. A host of right-wing media figures, including Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly, and Brian Kilmeade, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, and discredited right-wing blogger Pamela Geller have all flirted with the Vince Foster conspiracy theory, with Hannity once saying that “the death of Vince Foster” was one of “many chapters remaining open” in Hillary Clinton’s past. [Media Matters, 9/17/10, 9/18/15, 2/18/14, 7/18/07, 9/21/05, 8/16/07, 5/8/14]