Washingtonpost.com's Kane, Sun-Times' Sweet rehashed Clinton/Yankees myth

In an online discussion, washingtonpost.com blogger Paul Kane asserted that Sen. Hillary Clinton “tried to have it both ways when she was running for the Senate, claiming that she was a Yankees fan all her life.” Similarly, the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet wrote that Sen. Barack Obama said he was “a 'principled' sports fan, a slap, perhaps, at chief rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, who switched allegiance from Chicago to New York teams when she started her run to represent New York in the U.S. Senate.” In fact, Clinton's 2003 autobiography contains a photograph of her wearing a Yankees cap in 1992, and The Washington Post reported in 1994 that “Mrs. Clinton ... was a 'big-time' fan of the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees and 'understudied' Ernie Banks and Mickey Mantle.”

During an October 24 washingtonpost.com “Post Politics Hour” discussion, congressional blogger Paul Kane asserted that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) “tried to have it both ways when she was running for the Senate, claiming that she was a [New York] Yankees fan all her life.” Kane went on to claim that Clinton “grew up in a [Chicago] Cubs-fan household in suburban Chicago, and nothing in her personal background suggests that she was enough of a sports fan to have actually thought through her fandom enough to have [a National League] and an [American League] team.” Similarly, in an October 24 column, Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet wrote that during an October 23 campaign rally in Boston, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) said he was “a 'principled' sports fan, a slap, perhaps, at chief rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, who switched allegiance from Chicago to New York teams when she started her run to represent New York in the U.S. Senate.” However, the idea that Clinton proclaimed herself a Yankees fan only after she decided to run for the Senate seat for New York or that she “switched allegiance” from the Chicago Cubs to the New York Yankees during her Senate campaign is a myth commonly repeated in the media that is not supported by evidence. As Media Matters for America has noted, Clinton's 2003 autobiography, Living History (Simon & Schuster), contains a photograph of Clinton wearing a Yankees cap in 1992 -- eight years before she ran for the Senate. Further, The Washington Post reported on September 12, 1994, that “Mrs. Clinton ... as a kid was a 'big-time' fan of the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees and 'understudied' Ernie Banks and Mickey Mantle.”

Kane's assertion came in response to a question concerning former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's recent statement that despite being a longtime fan of the New York Yankees, he was “rooting for the [Boston] Red Sox” -- longtime rivals of the Yankees -- to win the upcoming World Series against the Colorado Rockies. The questioner did not mention Clinton, instead asking what Giuliani's statement indicated “about the character and political judgement [sic] of this man” :

Boston: Insufferable Boston fans?! I resemble that comment. ... What is insufferable if not inexcusable is Rudy Guiliani [sic] rooting for the Sox now. American League or not -- presidential pandering to New Hampshire voters or not -- you never would catch this Sox fan rooting for the Yankees What does this say about the character and political judgement [sic] of this man (on top of his support for World War IV-crazed Podhoertz [sic], which is a little more important)?

Paul Kane: Yeah, Rudy's claim that he's pulling for the Sox is a bit, well, special. Hillary Clinton tried to have it both ways when she was running for the Senate, claiming that she was a Yankees fan all her life. (She grew up in a Cubs-fan household in suburban Chicago, and nothing in her personal background suggests that she was enough of a sports fan to have actually thought through her fandom enough to have an NL and an AL team.)

So, yeah, well, a Rudy-Hillary campaign would be quite a treat for folks that get worked up on issues like that. Oh, in other news, the Southwick nomination just cleared the filibuster hurdle, getting 62 votes. Trading email with a top GOP Senate staffer earlier today, he and I set the over-under on 61 votes, so those of you that took the over, you win.

Contrary to Kane's assertion that “nothing in [Clinton's] personal background suggests that she was enough of a sports fan to have actually thought through her fandom enough to have an NL and an AL team,” Clinton wrote in Living History that during her childhood she “became a serious fan and occasional competitor” because her father and brothers were “sports fanatics.” From Living History:

Surrounded by a father and brothers who were sports fanatics, I became a serious fan and occasional competitor. I supported our school's teams and went to as many games as possible. I rooted for the Cubs, as did my family and most folks on our side of town. My favorite was Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks. In our neighborhood, it was nearly sacrilegious to cheer for the rival White Sox of the American League, so I adopted the Yankees as my AL team, in part because I loved Mickey Mantle. My explanations of Chicago sports rivalries fell on deaf ears during my Senate campaign years later, when skeptical New Yorkers were incredulous that a Chicago native could claim youthful allegiance to a team from the Bronx. [Page 13]

As Media Matters has noted (here and here), several conservatives and media figures have claimed that Clinton proclaimed herself a Yankees fan only after she decided to run for the Senate in New York and have used Clinton's statements regarding the Yankees to question her “authenticity.”

From Sweet's October 24 column:

Deval Patrick, who rose from poverty on Chicago's South Side to become Massachusetts' first black governor -- elected on a message of hope and change shared with White House contender Barack Obama -- urged his grass-roots army at a rally Tuesday night to campaign for his friend in New Hampshire and Iowa.

“Welcome to Red Sox nation,” said Patrick. Referring to the upcoming World Series here, his own win in 2006 and perhaps to Obama's lagging performance in the polls, he added, “Around here, we know how to come from behind and win.”

“I am a White Sox fan,” declared Obama, raising a mass groan. “You don't want somebody who pretends to be a Red Sox fan to be president of the United States.” Obama said he was a “principled” sports fan, a slap, perhaps, at chief rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, who switched allegiance from Chicago to New York teams when she started her run for the Senate.