In Clinton’s defence . . .

The Washington Post “Fact Checker” blog has been in overdrive this year. Both the principal candidates for President are pathological liars, on a scale not seen for decades, at least. Hillary Clinton has lied and continues to lie about her servers – we learnt only this year from the FBI that there were multiple servers – about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire, and numerous other things. Donald Trump’s lies are beyond counting. He has recently been repeating the lie that he opposed the Iraq War “from the beginning”. No doubt the recordings of his saying the opposite are forged. He claims to have seen people in New Jersey celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers fifteen years ago. This is demonstrably false, but serves his aim of stirring up religious and racial hatred.

But the Fact Checker’s (Glenn Kessler’s) recent blog on an internet meme claiming Hillary Clinton was fired from her work with the Watergate impeachment inquiry is fascinating. Like many of these blogs, it does no service to the person it is purporting to defend.

Hillary Rodham – as she then was – was not fired. Congressional payroll data shows that she was on staff until the inquiry was wound up after Richard Nixon resigned and impeachment became moot. One senior lawyer, a Democrat, Jeff Zeifman once made a throwaway remark about terminating her. In fact she was hired by his replacement, after he had been shunted sideways so, although they worked together, he was never her boss.

But Zeifman’s inconsistent account – taking Kessler at his word, here – is still damning of Ms Rodham. On one occasion he claimed that he would have fired her if he could have. This statement about his state of mind is impossible to verify or contradict. He expresses some strongly critical opinions of her work:

“She was a liar. She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.”

There is no evidence to support or refute these claims, though we know that her actual boss did not fire her for these, or any other, sins. According to Kessler, Zeifman’s book is full of ax-grinding resentment at numerous people, including both his replacement as chief legal counsel to the investigation (Rodham’s boss) and the committee chair, who probably engineered that replacement.

Given Zeifman’s own inconsistency – claiming on one occasion to have terminated her and another only to have wished that he had had the power to do so – and his apparent motivation of making side-swipes at her boss, his testimony is dubious, as well as unsupported.

In normal circumstances, the Washington Post would not have published a claim made by one, now deceased, person that has no supporting evidence. But this whole account, including the unfalsifiable claims as to her ethics are catalogued as part of debunking the claim that she was fired.

What emerges is a far from flattering portrait of Clinton that cannot be verified but cannot be falsified either. It should not have been published, and only was published because of a demonstrably false claim that she was fired. It could hardly have happened to a more deserving person, but it shouldn’t have happened at all.


Quentin Langley lives in New York and London and teaches at the University of Bedfordshire Business School

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