Hillary Clinton is a “jobs candidate” in at least one respect: She’s giving plenty of work to fact-checkers.
Last week, Clinton told Fox News Sunday that the FBI had debunked the idea that she was lying to the American people about using a private email address.
“[FBI Director James Comey] said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails,” Clinton said.
The Washington Post’s fact checker gave Clinton “four Pinnochios,” because she “is cherry-picking statements by Comey to preserve her narrative about the unusual setup of a private email server. This allows her to skate past the more disturbing findings of the investigation.” Similarly, Politifact accused Clinton of having “selective hearing” and gave her statements a “Pants on Fire” rating.
Clinton was apparently unfettered by the harsh rebuke because she attempted the exact same flawed defense yesterday at a meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. When asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker to explain why she keeps misstating Comey’s findings about her emails, Clinton doubled down on her previous narrative.
Clinton argued that Comey found her statements “truthful” and “consistent” with what she ha said publicly.
“But I do think, you know, having [Comey] say that my answers to the FBI were truthful and then I should quickly add, what I said was consistent with what I had said publicly. And that’s really sort of in my view trying to tie both ends together,” Clinton said.
“So what we have here is pretty much what I have been saying throughout this whole year, and that is that I never sent or received anything that was marked classified,” she continued.
Cue the Washington Post fact-checker, who issued a “recidivism watch,” writing that she “fell back on a claim that has been roundly debunked by fact checkers.”
In a separate column, the Post’s Chris Cillizza wonders why Clinton, after all this time, still can’t seem to bring herself to simply tell the truth when it comes to her email behavior:
Hillary Clinton has been dealing with questions about her decision to exclusively use a private email server while serving as secretary of state for much of the past 17 months. You would think that, in all of that time, she would have found a handful of workable answers to the inevitable questions that decision raises. She hasn’t. …
This is by now a very familiar pattern with Clinton when it comes to her email server. She simply refuses to acknowledge any misstep or wrongdoing beyond an initial poor decision to exclusively use a private email server for “convenience” sake. She continues to provide legalistic answers that touch the truth but aren’t entirely the truth. As I have written many times before, a campaign is not a court. Public opinion is a different thing than the law. Clinton has never grasped and seems to still not grasp that.
I’m similarly amazed that Clinton’s team of politicos and wordsmiths haven’t found a better way to handle this clear vulnerability. But I don’t buy for a second that Clinton doesn’t “grasp” what she’s doing. Just like Comey bought into the idea that Clinton was “extremely careless” in the handling of classified information, the media seems to be imputing ignorance onto Clinton’s messaging of the issue. The far more likely scenario is that she knew exactly what she’s was doing when she set up a home-brew email server that allowed her to control what the public was able to see, and she knows that confusing people about the facts is an easier task than admitting her wrongdoing and begging forgiveness.
Of course, that wily approach comes with a cost. It erodes people’s trust. And without trust, it’s going to be nearly impossible to govern.