The ghost of Vince Foster is back. Again.
This time the Clinton White House attorney who committed suicide in 1993 is being conjured in support of two new conspiracy theories: Google is protecting Hillary Clinton by suppressing negative news stories, and the National Archives is working toward the same goal by hiding incriminating records.
Early risers could learn about theory No. 1 Wednesday morning from Fox Business Network reporter Cheryl Casone, who appeared on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends First."
Fox News anchor pushes Clinton murder conspiracy, explicitly citing InfoWars pic.twitter.com/wEgboKUxVt
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) August 24, 2016
"Google is being accused of hiding negative stories about Hillary and her campaign by changing its algorithm to bury stories like the 'Clinton body count' story," Casone told viewers. "That's according to website Infowars. If a Google user types in 'Clinton body,' they get car repair shop results instead of a story that talks about a list of people tied to the Clintons who have died under mysterious circumstances over the last three decades."
Yes, the citation for this accusation is Infowars, the site founded by 9/11 truther Alex Jones, who has posited that Michelle Obama was born a man and that the government is turning people gay by lining juice boxes with estrogen. Infowars also promotes the fringe belief that Foster's death was not a suicide but rather a murder ordered by the Clintons and that the Clintons have had other people killed, too, to cover up various misdeeds.
To be clear, Infowars' "Clinton body count" story from 2008 — and others like it — are easy to find through Google. Infowars' complaint was that when a Google user typed only the words "Clinton body" into the search engine Monday, Google's autocomplete feature did not assume that the user was looking for body count articles, suggesting multiple results for auto repair businesses instead.
By Wednesday afternoon — perhaps because this faux scandal suddenly drove traffic to "Clinton body count" stories — Google's autocomplete functioned differently.
The National Archives theory originated with a more reputable source but is nevertheless rather flimsy. Ronald Kessler, a decorated former Washington Post reporter, wrote in London's Daily Mail on Tuesday that "FBI files linking Hillary Clinton to the 'suicide' of White House counsel Vince Foster have vanished from the National Archives."
The trouble is that it's not at all clear that "vanished" is an accurate description of what happened — or that the missing documents even exist.
Kessler wrote that he visited the archives twice, expecting to find among Whitewater investigation records the incriminating accounts of two former FBI agents, Coy Copeland and Jim Clemente, who believe Hillary Clinton drove Foster to suicide with nasty criticism. Kessler interviewed Copeland and Clemente for his 2014 book, "The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents." Here's an excerpt from Kessler's piece in the Daily Mail:
On the first visit, archivist David Paynter provided the box of records that he said contained the FBI reports of interviews conducted by FBI agents on Foster's death.
On a second visit, archivist James Mathis provided what he said were those same documents. While the box contained dozens of FBI reports concerning Foster's death — including interviews with the medical examiner, U.S. Park Police officers, and White House aides about the contents of Foster's office — the reports on Hillary Clinton's role in his death were absent.
Okay, but were Copeland and Clemente's "reports on Hillary Clinton's role" in the box on the first visit? Did Kessler ever see them? He didn't actually say so. Instead, he implied that they vanished by noting only that they were "absent" on the second visit. Esquire's Charlie Pierce found this section of Kessler's story odd, too.
You will note that the passage quoted above has a neat little bit of business. There is no mention of the "missing" files in the description of the author's first visit and then, in the account of his second visit, we are told that the previously unmentioned files are now missing. This could just be bad writing or worse editing but, given precedents dating back to 1992, there's no reason to assume too much good faith.
Kessler went on to write that he filed a public records request for the absent documents and that the National Archives said it could not find any such papers, even after broadening its search beyond Copeland and Clemente's contributions to the probe. A spokesman for the archives also told Kessler that if the documents do exist, they could be in another of the roughly 3,000 boxes of records generated by Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation.
What's more, Kessler noted later in the Daily Mail article that Starr ignored Copeland and Clemente's conclusion that Hillary Clinton was to blame for Foster's death when he issued his final, 38,000-word report on the matter. If Starr discounted the agents' findings, how would we know they were archived in the first place?
Whatever. The idea that a damning link between Clinton and Foster's death has been scrubbed from the National Archives is irresistible, and is now circulating on the Drudge Report, Radar Online, Western Journalism and other conservative news sites.
And this is just the latest Foster haunting of the campaign. In May, Donald Trump casually mentioned Foster's death in an interview with The Washington Post, saying, "There are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder."
At this rate, we can expect Foster to come up again in about three months — just in time for Election Day.