The writer served on the Federal Trade Commission from 1997 to 2003.
It is beyond contempt that a politician would use a family tragedy to further his candidacy, but such is the character of Donald Trump displayed in his recent comments to The Washington Post. In this interview, Trump cynically, crassly and recklessly insinuated that my brother, Vincent W. Foster Jr., may have been murdered because “he had intimate knowledge of what was going on” and that Hillary Clinton may have somehow played a role in Vince’s death.
How wrong. How irresponsible. How cruel.
“There are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder,” Trump said in response to a question about Vince’s death.
Trump was canny enough to hedge — he’s not the one raising questions, he said, but others have. He noted that Vince “knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide.” The circumstances of Vince’s death, he observed, were “very fishy” and the theories about possible foul play “very serious.”
This is scurrilous enough coming from right-wing political operatives who have peddled conspiracy theories about Vince’s death for more than two decades. How could this be coming from the presumptive Republican nominee for president?
Five investigations, including by independent counsels Robert B. Fiske Jr. and Kenneth Starr, concluded that Vince suffered from severe depression that caused him to be unable to sleep, unable to work, unable to think straight, and finally to take his own life.
I know this to be true because Vince lived with me when he came to Washington to serve as deputy counsel to the president. This is a grueling job in any administration, especially so at the start, and in the case of the Clinton White House, the counsel’s office — and Vince — were consumed with problems, including over the firing of employees in the White House travel office.
Vince and I were very close siblings — I was the older, by four years and two months — and there was not much we didn’t share with one another. After about three months, his family rented out their Little Rock home and Vince moved with them to a small Georgetown house.
Vince called me at my office in the Justice Department a few days before he died. He told me he was battling depression and knew he needed help. But he was worried that such an admission would adversely affect his top-level security clearance and prevent him from doing his job.
I told him I would try to find a psychiatrist who could help him and protect his privacy. After a few phone calls, I gave him three names. That list was found in his wallet with his body at Fort Marcy Park in McLean. I did not see a suicide coming, yet when I was told that Vince was dead I knew that he had killed himself. Never for a minute have I doubted that was what happened.
I think Vince felt he was a failure, this brilliant man who had so many talents, had achieved so many honors and was so well-respected by his peers. He must have felt that he couldn’t stay in his job at the White House, and he couldn’t go back to Little Rock. He was so ill, he couldn’t see a way out.
A few months after Vince’s death, I began to see alarming reports in the news articles distributed throughout the Justice Department each day. These clips, which began appearing in newspapers across the country, were similar, as though written by a single source.
This was the beginning of the countless conspiracy theories spun by those who claimed that the Clintons had Vince murdered because he knew something about Whitewater, the real estate transaction that became the subject of the Fiske and Starr investigations. Repeat something enough times and in enough venues, I guess, and people begin to question their own good sense.
These outrageous suggestions have caused our family untold pain because this issue went on for so long and these reports were so painful to read. For years, our family had to wage a court fight to prevent release of photographs of Vince’s dead body. My heartbroken mother was plagued by harassing phone calls from a reporter.
Through all this time I have not spoken publicly about this matter, out of an effort to maintain our family’s privacy. I am now, because The Post sought my reaction. I have donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign but have not had contact with anyone at the campaign about my decision to go public.
For Trump to raise these theories again for political advantage is wrong. I cannot let such craven behavior pass without a response.