“The retweet is really more of a killer than the tweets,” Donald Trump said back in May.

Perhaps Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo can relate to that sentiment. Earlier today, Bartiromo retweeted a smear against Hillary Clinton alleging she had called Muslims “sand n—ers.” Here is the relevant activity from Bartiromo’s Twitter account (extremely crude editing of the offensive words is the handiwork of the Erik Wemple Blog):

That’s a vicious lie spun from an honest-to-goodness document. The Wikileaks Hillary Clinton Email Archive contains a March 5, 2012, exchange between then-Secretary of State Clinton and Special Assistant to the Secretary of State Robert Russo. “Pls orint,” writes the secretary in mangled Clinton computerese for “please print.” The command applied to the English translation of an opinion piece originally published by Israeli novelist David Grossman, “Why? Who Died?” which appeared on the front page of Haaretz.

Read the translation: It concerns the case of Omar Abu Jariban, who in 2008 was hospitalized in Israel after getting into an accident in a stolen car. He was an undocumented Palestinian immigrant. Following his treatment, he was supposed to be transferred to a detention facility, but instead police officers took matters into their own hands. According to this in-depth report, police merely left him by the side of a road near a crossing point. “Abu Jariban was left to his own devices, wearing his hospital gown and with the discharge papers in his pocket. The catheter was still with him. He was barefoot. The policemen left neither food nor drink with him; they reported that they had completed the mission.” There he died.

These events so haunted Grossman that he wrote a chilling opinion piece attempting to get inside the heads of the police officers responsible for the man’s inhumane abandonment. It’s filled with question marks. A passage from the piece:

Was he sitting like them on the seat or was he lying on the floor of the van? Was he handcuffed or not? Did anybody talk to him? Did they offer him a drink? Did they share a laugh? Did they laugh at him? Did they poke fun at his adult nappy? Did they laugh at his confusion or at his catheter? Did they discuss what he was capable of while still attached to the catheter or once he would be separated from it? Did they say that he deserved what was coming? Did they kick him lightly like mates do, or maybe because the situation demanded a swift kick? Or did they just kick him for the heck of it, just because they could, and why not?

And yes, the translation of Grossman’s piece does include the term “sand n—er,” apparently as a device that the author uses to get inside the heads of the authorities. Writing about the officers who carted Jariban on his final trip, Grossman writes, “So they returned to van, and they kept on going. And now the guys in the van are perhaps not quite as nice before, because it is getting late and they want to get back and wonder what have they done to have deserved copping this sand n[—]er and what are they going to do with him now.”

So there’s the context for you. What appears to have happened to Bartiromo is a classic bit of Internet sleight of hand. The image retweeted by Bartiromo appears to omit the material in the email indicating that this was a newspaper article circulating among Clinton and her aides — which, by the way, is one of the chief utilities of email, as we’ve learned from reviewing thousands upon thousands of them. As a result, it appears that Clinton was using the term to demean Muslims, as opposed to an author using the term toward literary ends. Another bonus: The Twitter user — an apparent Trump supporter — whom Bartiromo retweeted advertised it as “#CNN BREAKING.”

The slime here couldn’t possibly be more complete. Instead of having used an epithet against a group of people, Clinton was expressing her interest in knowing more about the social, political and criminal dimensions of an important story affecting Israelis and Palestinians. Some unknown number of Bartiromo’s 200,000-plus Twitter followers came away with the slanderous impression. From what we know about Fox News and Fox Business, she’ll suffer no discipline for the retweets; few will write about it. But the episode is instructive, because bit by bit, this is how the country becomes ungovernable.

We are awaiting a response from a Fox Business rep. According to a Fox Business rep, Bartiromo has posted a tweet saying this: “not a smear traffic at all. I realized the retweet was wrong soonafter and deleted ASAP tensions high.” The Erik Wemple Blog would normally post that tweet, but:

This election cycle has been taken over by peak punditry. Here's a collection of what they've said about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. (Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)