On Fox & Friends, Dick Morris admitted he fabricated his “bombshell” claim that in 1997, then-Attorney General Janet Reno threatened President Clinton by saying that if he did not reappoint her as attorney general, she was “gonna tell the truth about Waco” -- a claim the right-wing media uncritically promoted. Following Morris' admission that his claim was actually his “conjecture based on the facts,” will the same media outlets run a retraction noting that Morris has now admitted that Clinton “didn't actually say” what Morris claimed?
Right-wing media trumpet Morris' dubious “bombshell”
On Hannity, Morris specifically claimed: “Clinton told me that 'I couldn't appoint Reno, because she would have turned on me over Waco.' That's the phrase he used.” On the April 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Morris offered the following “never been said before” story about Clinton's decision to reappoint Reno:
MORRIS: And let's understand, what was Timothy McVeigh's motivation? God knows what was going on in that crazy head of his, but there's some speculation, and he himself had said, that it was the reaction to the Waco takeover. And Bill Clinton orchestrated that takeover. And, in fact, was so ashamed about what he did in Waco that he was not gonna appoint Janet Reno to a second four-year term. And she told him in a meeting right before the inauguration day for his new term that “if you don't appoint me, I'm gonna tell the truth about Waco.” And that forced Clinton's hand in reappointing her. So I think Mr. --
SEAN HANNITY (host): I don't remember you telling this story before.
MORRIS: No, it's never been said before.
MORRIS: I think that President Clinton might want to examine his own connection with the Oklahoma City bombing in terms of Waco before he starts accusing people in walkers and wheelchairs who are trying to keep their Medicare of being provocateurs.
HANNITY: Wait a minute. So -- so what was the truth about Waco that Reno threatened to use against him?
MORRIS: I have no idea. But I know that he told me -- Clinton told me that “I couldn't not appoint Reno, because she would have turned on me over Waco.” That's the phrase he used.
Limbaugh: “I have to think Slick Willy is beet red, or was last night, when he heard this.” On April 20, referencing Morris' appearance on Hannity, Rush Limbaugh said: “Dick Morris told Sean Hannity that Bill Clinton may want to reflect on his own responsibilities for the Waco invasion, because Dick Morris said that Bill Clinton personally told him that Janet Reno's appointment to a second term as attorney general was to keep her quiet about the Waco invasion in 1993 that McVeigh claimed as his inspiration.” Limbaugh contrasted Morris' story with Clinton's recent warnings that incendiary rhetoric and “demonizing the government” incited domestic terrorism during his presidency and threatened to do so again. Later in the program, Limbaugh claimed, “Nobody has said this, until Dick Morris kicked the can down the road last night, and I have to think that Slick Willy is beet red, or was last night, when he heard this.” After airing a portion of Morris' appearance on Hannity, Limbaugh later went on to say, “What Dick Morris is saying here is that Clinton ordered the invasion.”
Hoft: “Dick Morris Bombshell: Reno Told Clinton She Stays On or She Blows Whistle on Waco.” On April 20, on his Gateway Pundit blog, Jim Hoft embedded video of Morris' comments and wrote: “Dick Morris suggested that Janet Reno threatened to leak the goods on Waco unless Bill Clinton kept her on for a second term. Morris tild (sic) Sean Hannity that this was the first time that he had divulged this information.”
Ace Of Spades: “Dick Morris: Clinton Told Me He Had To Reappoint Janet Reno Or She Would Turn on Him Over Waco.” On April 19, “Ace” posted on the Ace Of Spades blog that “on Hannity, and Morris says it's a story he never told before. He says Clinton did not want to reappoint Reno to a second four-year term, but felt he had to, or else she would 'tell the truth about him and Waco.' ”
Fox Nation: “Dick Morris Bombshell: How Reno Blackmailed Clinton With Waco.” On April 20, Fox Nation linked to a HotAirPundit recap of the story under the headline, “Dick Morris Bombshell: How Reno Blackmailed Clinton With Waco.” From the Fox Nation:
Two days later, Morris admitted Clinton “didn't actually say that”
Morris admits his claim was actually “my conjecture based on the facts” and that Clinton “didn't actually say that.” After Morris' accusation was covered across the right-wing media -- and Media Matters pointed out that his claims were dubious at best -- Morris appeared on the April 21 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends and changed his story, saying that he needed to “distinguish the facts from my conjecture based on the facts” and that Clinton “didn't actually say that.” Morris now claims Clinton told him “she asked me to reappoint her for at least a year, because if I didn't, people would think that I was blaming her for Waco.” From the April 21 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends (emphasis added):
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Wow, that's a bombshell. So did Janet Reno -- was she forced or did she force Bill Clinton into a reappointment to the attorney general post? Let's ask Fox News contributor again, Dick Morris. All right, Dick, you released a bombshell by saying that, actually, President Clinton made this Waco decision and not Janet Reno?
MORRIS: Well, let me -- yes, I believe he did. I -- but let me -- let me distinguish the facts from my conjecture based on the facts. The facts are that the Timothy McVeigh attack took place on the anniversary of Waco. And when President Clinton was contemplating his second-term Cabinet, he appointed the whole Cabinet but left attorney general vacant. And he and I were in extensive discussions about who he might appoint to become the new attorney general. In fact, we had focused on the idea that Bill Weld, the governor of Massachusetts, might do that, and Hillary and Bill had asked me to check Bill out -- Bill Weld out, he's a client of mine. And we had extensive discussions about his becoming attorney general.
And then Clinton met with Reno in what I anticipated would be a firing session. He told me the night before the meeting, “I'm going to fire her.” Then he goes into the meeting and he reappoints her. So I called him, and I said, what gives? And he said, “Well, I told -- I told her that nobody's ever served for eight years as attorney general in an administration, or few people have, and I don't think you should, and I think we should change.” And she said “Well, I'd like you to reappoint me for at least one more year, because if not, people will think that you're blaming me for what went on in Waco.” Now, that's the quote that Clinton gave me.
I believe based on that quote that the reason he reappointed her was that he was not anxious to have his own role in that Waco controversy spelled out. Let me explain what was going on then. Clinton was getting a lot of negatives -- huge negatives -- because he was seen as weak. The FBI and the ATF were sitting out there for months and months while the siege was going on, and people said, all right, enough already. And eventually -- and there were rumors of child abuse and all kinds of stuff. And then the raid went in and as you know, it was a very savage raid with a lot of deaths that some considered unnecessary. Reno publicly took the blame for that decision. But I inferred based on Clinton's conversation with me that there was more to that story, and that there was more of a role that Clinton was playing. He didn't actually say that. But what he did say is she asked me to reappoint her for at least a year, because if I didn't, people would think that I was blaming her for Waco.