Released on Tuesday, the book is already No. 2 on Amazon's bestsellers list. And that's just the hardcover edition; the Kindle version is No. 6.
But according to Byrne, Donald Trump and some conservatives in the press, the mainstream media is engaged in a kind of orchestrated blackout of "Crisis of Character." The ex-officer said on Fox News on Wednesday morning that CNN had booked him for an interview and then canceled. A CNN spokeswoman did not respond to an inquiry about Byrne's claim.
Sean Hannity alleged on his Fox show Monday night that "all the mainstream media [has] been pressured to ignore it." And as excerpts trickled out over the past month, Trump complained in an interview with Hannity a few weeks ago that "it's got very little coverage, which is really amazing."
Byrne's book has, indeed, received scant attention — and what little coverage it has gotten from the likes of the New York Times has been largely negative and dismissive.
Liberal bias is the go-to charge in a situation like this. But news outlets probably aren't ignoring Byrne because they don't want to believe him; more likely, they are ignoring him because they actually don't.
One big reason to doubt the book's credibility comes from the president of the Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service, who told Politico last week that Byrne was too low-ranking to have witnessed everything he claims, including a makeout session between Bill Clinton and the daughter of former vice president Walter Mondale.
The closest contact that Byrne could have had, according to [association president Jan] Gilhooly and others, is seeing the president or the first lady pass in the hallway — far from the intimate access he would have needed to catch Bill Clinton in the act or see Hillary Clinton fly into the cursing rages he now writes have convinced him that she doesn't have the "integrity and temperament" to be president."There could be a circumstance where a uniformed officer might be in the proximity. It's not as if it never happens," Gilhooly said. "It is possible but not on a continuum."The former supervisor of the presidential protective division said that at best Byrne is working from office rumors that he's cinematically written himself into. People spend decades on presidential details and don't rack up the number of amazing scenes Byrne claims to have witnessed in just a few years as a uniformed officer.
The claim that Bill Clinton had a romantic encounter with Eleanor Mondale isn't new; the rumor dates to the 1990s. Byrne also writes about an incident in which Hillary Clinton supposedly hurled a vase at Bill and gave him a black eye. Matt Drudge reported that one in 1998 — and he got it from the National Enquirer, posting an account of the episode online before the supermarket tabloid could put it in print.
That's not to say for certain that these events did not happen, but it's not hard to see media outlets viewing it as Byrne passing off old gossip as first-hand experience.
Then there's a scene from "Crisis of Character" in which Byrne says he saw lipstick and the president's semen on towels brought to him by a suspicious White House steward. Byrne writes that he removed the towels from the White House grounds and disposed of them.
As BuzzFeed first reported last week, that's a far more dramatic tale than the one he told — under oath, no less — during the Monica Lewinsky investigation. In 1998, Byrne testified that a steward showed him towels and "said something about lipstick." He also testified that he didn't see any stains on the towels and that the steward kept possession of them.
"I just remember him kind of walking away, and that was it," Byrne said. "I don't know what he did with them. That was the end of the thing."
It is possible, of course, that Byrne lied at the time to protect the president and that his book contains the truth. But the inconsistency is a major red flag for news outlets — as are his resurrections of previously circulated rumors and the doubt cast by the retired agents' group.
"Crisis of Confidence" might be racking up sales, but there are reasons for the media to be cautious about amplifying Byrne's claims. And that's precisely the approach they're taking.