January 7, 2013
Bikas Das / The Associated Press
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Bikas Das/Associated Press)

In the clip below, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News’s “This Week” turns his attention to the various allegations on Fox News that Hillary Clinton had faked her illness. How to explain the rash of such charges, he asks Fox News host Greta Van Susteren. In her response, Van Susteren suggests that she’s not paid to be a spokeswoman for Fox News: “I’m responsible for what I say, No. 1,” she says, clarifying that she was never a Clinton-is-ill doubter.

Van Susteren was anchoring Fox News’s air on the night of Dec. 17, when John Bolton uttered his never-to-be-forgotten charge that Clinton had come down with a “diplomatic illness” to avoid testifying before Congress regarding Benghazi, Libya. That was two days after the secretary was reported to have suffered a concussion — and a couple of weeks before she checked into a New York hospital to treat a blood clot in her head related to her “diplomatic illness.”

Though Van Susteren had written a blog post criticizing those who used Fox News airtime to question the gravity of Clinton’s illness, she strikes a different tone in her appearance on Sunday with Stephanopoulos. She says that the “faking” club members raised their concerns at a time when there was “not much information coming out of the State Department.”

Another sign of trouble: Van Susteren suggests that the blood clot report cleared everything up: “Once these people heard that she was seriously ill, that all changed,” she tells Stephanopoulos. Meaning, the doubters weren’t impressed by the report of the concussion that came out on Dec. 15; they were impressed by the report of a blood clot that surfaced before New Year’s. Does the secretary of state really have to check into a hospital before people will believe claims that she’s ailing?

In toto, Van Susteren’s comments amount to a failure to acknowledge the ghastliness of the faking allegations that crowded Fox News’s pre-Christmas programming. All the conditions are in place for an apology from Fox News, except for the courage. Whenever the secretary’s health becomes a topic of conversation in the coming years, pundits will remember Fox News’s “coverage” of the matter, along with its post-facto shamelessness.
The sequence of events bears a likeness to another prominent media story of 2012. Just days before the Nov. 6 presidential election, Dick Morris on Fox News predicted a landslide for Republican contender Mitt Romney. The parallels:

• Both Morris and Bolton were speaking as Fox News contributors;

• Both Morris and Bolton were spouting analysis and prognostications that pleased the core conservative audience of Fox News;

• Both Morris and Bolton were spouting analysis and prognostications about hot news topics;

• Both Morris and Bolton were spouting analysis and prognostications about hot news topics whose outcomes would eventually become starkly clear;

• Both Morris and Bolton were proven by those outcomes to not know a thing about which they were talking.

The defiance from Bolton keeps coming. When asked whether he’d consider apologizing, he responded, “As Cap Weinberger used to observe, if I said anything more, I would only be repeating myself.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.