In recent weeks, reporters have been asking quite a few questions of former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, thanks to the promotional tour for her new book “Hard Choices.” Among the topics covered in these chats has been the finances of the Clinton family, and on this front Hillary Clinton hasn’t performed up to Hillary Clinton messaging standards.
Most notably, she told ABC News that the Clintons were “dead broke” after their White House years, prompting all critics to write blog posts or tweet. She also told the Guardian that “we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names.” Cue more criticism.
And cue Bill Clinton, who has a word or two of advice for journalists covering his wife’s depiction of family finances. Speaking to David Gregory of NBC News in Denver at the the Clinton Global Initiative conference, he protested, “It is factually true that we were several million dollars in debt,” according to an account of the event in The Hill. Journalists “should put this in some sort of context,” he also said.
The plea for “context” is a common refrain for anyone who feels unfairly treated by the media. What it generally means is: Please agree with us. Bill Clinton apparently wanted this background tucked into the story, per The Hill:
He said Hillary Clinton had in the past offered legal assistance for poor people and fought for paid leave for pregnant mothers in the 1970s. And he explained that he and the former secretary of State go to their local grocery store on the weekends and talk to regular people.
At the same time, Hillary Clinton admitted to another interviewer that her “dead broke” comment wasn’t the optimal way to phrase things: “That may have not been the most artful way of saying that Bill and I have gone through a lot of different phases in our lives. That was then, this is now. Obviously, we are very fortunate. We’ve been given great opportunities.” So maybe it’s all about what she says, not about how reporters contextualize it.
Another topic: Why is NBC News’s Gregory participating in the Clinton conference, anyway? In addition to interviewing Bill Clinton, Gregory moderated a panel discussion featuring Carly Fiorina, among others (Gregory’s show, “Meet the Press,” taped the proceedings). As noted here yesterday, many of his colleagues in the Beltway media yesterday participated in a political event staged by the White House and a liberal think tank, so perhaps this is a ho-hum affair.
Yet come on: the Clinton Global Initiative is the work of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Bill Clinton is a former president and a huge booster of his wife, Hillary Clinton, a quite-likely future presidential candidate. Chelsea Clinton is … an NBC News special correspondent. Why would any journalist help these folks promote themselves?
NBC News declined to comment.
I enjoyed the opportunity to interview the president at CGI today. We talked economy and politics even Iraq. MTP Sun pic.twitter.com/0aJI9Pn8ac
— David Gregory (@davidgregory) June 24, 2014