The truth about The Truth About Hillary

In an open letter, Media Matters for America president and CEO David Brock denounces the Penguin Group for publishing Edward Klein’s mean-spirited and wildly inaccurate anti-Hillary tome

BY David Brock

June 27 2005 12:00 AM ET

And on Page 13, Mr. Klein writes of Senator Clinton with no sourcing:

“She was a mother, but she wasn’t maternal.

“She was a wife, but she had no wifely instincts.

“She said she was passionately in love with her husband, but many of her closest friends and aides were lesbians.”

Fifty-one pages later, Mr. Klein is still at it, writing without attribution, “From her days in Wellesley onward, Hillary was often mistaken as asexual.” He then quotes a “clinical sexologist” to contend that women described as “asexual” have in fact “shut down” their real sexual feelings. This passage introduces an anecdote wherein Senator Clinton allegedly “made a point of sitting next to Nancy Wanderer” at her 25th Wellesley College reunion in 1994. According to Mr. Klein, “Hillary reached out and ran the palm of her hand over Nancy’s butch [hair] cut.”

Mr. Klein makes much throughout the book of “how the culture of lesbianism at Wellesley College shaped Hillary’s politics.” As you may know, Ms. Wanderer, a nonpublic figure who had been married in college, told the New York Post in a June 10 article about Mr. Klein’s book (“Hillary-Basher Is Error-Prone”):

“Yes, I am a lesbian, but I wasn’t at Wellesley or for 20 years afterward. There was no lesbian culture there at the time. I couldn’t have told you one person who was a lesbian. If there was, it was underground.

“I hope [Klein] doesn’t suggest there was anything going on, because there just wasn’t. And if the hair episode is being portrayed as a sexual thing, it wasn’t that at all. I have a very short haircut, and we were all talking about it [at the reunion]. Probably everyone at the table touched it.”

According to the Post, Mr. Klein did not speak to Ms. Wanderer for his book, just as he did not speak with Ms. Pietrafesa.

As for the chapter sardonically titled “A Night to Remember,” in which Mr. Klein indicates that the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea, was conceived during the rape of her mother by her father, a responsible publisher would certainly require more than a single purported “anonymous source who was with the Clintons in Bermuda” before suggesting such heinous criminal conduct on the part of a former president of the United States. A Drudge Report posting about the rape story led numerous observers to denounce the book, including several conservative commentators—but not before this thinly “sourced” smear generated publicity for the book, damaging Penguin’s reputation in the process.

What are Penguin’s standards for such reportage? Was the so-called “source” identified to Penguin editors and lawyers to your satisfaction? Penguin’s Web site claims, “Our values: In everything we do, we aspire to be brave, imaginative, and decent.” Does Sentinel, a self-described conservative Penguin imprint, adhere to the same standards of editorial decency, or does Penguin have one set of rules for Sentinel and another for everyone else?

A Penguin executive, Adrian Zakheim, has been quoted as saying that the publisher stands behind the book and its author “100%.” But such empty assurances are insufficient. I believe it is incumbent upon Penguin to substantiate this maliciously grotesque rape claim and either confirm it publicly as legitimate or else retract it as a fabrication and apologize to the public and the Clintons.

In the interest of brevity, I won’t list all of the many factual errors already documented in the book even before its release to the general public, though I will note a few of them to demonstrate Mr. Klein’s routinely reckless disregard for basic facts. Mr. Klein falsely claims that Senator Clinton “suddenly turned up a long-lost” Jewish relative in a cynical move to quell a controversy over an appearance she made with Yasser Arafat’s wife, Suha. But the news that Senator Clinton’s step-grandfather was Jewish had broken three months before the Arafat incident, as should have been clear to anyone with access to a newspaper archive. Writing about Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s endorsement of Senator Clinton’s Senate candidacy, Mr. Klein quotes Senator Moynihan as saying, “I’m here to say that I hope she will go all the way.” Then Mr. Klein writes, as if to demonstrate Senator Moynihan’s coolness toward the candidacy, “For Moynihan, apparently it was easier to say ‘she’ than ‘Hillary.’” Yet according to an easily available transcript, Senator Moynihan had in fact referred to Senator Clinton as “Hillary” in the prior sentence.

Finally, Mr. Klein writes of an allegedly testy meeting between Senator Moynihan; his wife, Liz; and Senator Clinton in anticipation of the Senate campaign. Senator Moynihan’s daughter Maura, who attended the meeting, told New York cable news channel NY1 that Mr. Klein’s account is “utter nonsense,” “utterly and completely false,” and that her mother never gave Mr. Klein the quotes falsely attributed to her.

One accurate claim Penguin has made about this book is in the headline on its dust-jacket copy, which reads, “The truth about Hillary is more frightening than you can imagine.” For the sake of your own well-earned reputation as a quality publisher of authors such as Nadine Gordimer, Garrison Keillor, Salman Rushdie, Lewis Lapham, Al Franken, Terry McMillan, Kevin Phillips, Maureen Dowd, Eric Alterman, and Michael Ignatieff, among many others, not to mention the confidence of the book-buying public, I implore you to clarify how this frightening smear job of a book could have made it past your editors and into print.

I suppose it is not an accident that the Penguin imprint Sentinel has analogized this book to the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Sen. John Kerry last year. Frankly, the public has had more than its fill of drive-by political character assassinations. I can assure you that if this matter is not redressed satisfactorily, Penguin’s actions won’t be forgotten as progressives shop for books.

Sincerely,

David BrockPresident and CEOMedia Matters for America

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