DNC Chair Freaks Out After Andrea Mitchell Actually Fact-Checks Hillary

On Friday, MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell actually fact-checked Hillary Clinton’s suspicious tale of trying to join the Marines in 1975: “Those comments are being mocked by Republicans today and they’re getting two Pinocchios from Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler....Why on earth would she go to a Marine recruiter in 1975?...It doesn't make sense.”

Her guest, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was so taken aback that the Florida congresswoman attacked Mitchell for asking questions: “With all due respect, Andrea, why on earth are we talking about this?” Mitchell hit back: “Because she brought it up in New Hampshire the other day. If she hadn't brought it up, it would not be an issue in this campaign.”

Schultz argued: “Andrea, Andrea, what the story illustrated was that we have made a lot of progress in America. Secretary Clinton is absolutely right. I mean, back then, you did have a much tougher time for women to be able to make it successfully through the recruitment process and move up in the military and we’ve made tremendous progress since then.”

Mitchell replied:

I mean, with all due respect, I won't defer to anyone in terms of people who have done stories over the decades about the challenges of women in the military....So I don't think that's the point. I think the point is just, did this happen? You have a presidential candidate, the frontrunner in the Democratic Party, saying something happened which is quite strikingly dissonant to people who knew her back then.

Schultz whined: “I just find it really unreasonable, Andrea....this is a personal story that Hillary Clinton has told, and it's not the first time she told it. It didn't come out of the blue.”

The head of the DNC talked herself into such a corner that she actually wound up defending Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson:

Do we need every single experience in a person's life to be written in stone and blood and verifiable? There are things that happen to people all across America that can't be verified. And I know your next question's going to be about Ben Carson. And I think quite frankly, the same goes for stories about Ben Carson.

Wrapping up the unusually contentious exchange, Mitchell lobbed a softball as a peace offering: “I was gonna play a little bit of Donald Trump and try to see how you react to him questioning her [Hillary Clinton’s] credentials on women's issues. Let's play Donald Trump....Have at it.”

Schultz predictably jumped at the chance to bash the entire GOP field:

And the Republicans have all talked about issues that would turn the clock back for women, whether it's on our health care, whether it's on making sure that we can get equal pay for equal work, whether it's making sure that we have access to an affordable education which so many women don't have access to now that you've got families in America who are headed by women, 40% of those who have children in the household.

Here is a full transcript of the November 13 interview:

12:43 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: As the three Democratic presidential candidates prepare to face off tomorrow night in Des Moines, Hillary Clinton is raising eyebrows, reviving an old story that after working for two anti-war presidential campaigns in college, she then went on to Arkansas to a recruiting office a few years later and tried to join the Marines.

HILLARY CLINTON: He looked at me and he goes, “How old are you?” And I said well, “I'm 26, I'll be 27.” And he goes, “Well, that's kind of old for us.”

[LAUGHTER]

And then he says to me, this – he says to me, “Maybe the dogs will take you,” meaning the Army.

MITCHELL: Those comments are being mocked by Republicans today and they’re getting two Pinocchios from Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler. Joining me now from Iowa, Florida Congresswoman and Democratic chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Congresswoman –

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Great to be with you, Andrea.

MITCHELL: Good to talk to you. I have to tell you, I’ve covered her a long time, I was unaware of this. But she first said it when she was First Lady in 1994 at a meeting on the Hill, and then it was written up by Maureen Dowd back in 1994. It doesn't track. Maureen wrote, “Mrs. Clinton offered the story to illustrate how far women had come. She said ‘it was not an isolated situation’ for women to be turned away by military recruiters. She lauded efforts to bring women into more aspects of military service.”

That said, she had worked for both George McGovern, you know, and Gene McCarthy, she was actively against the war in Vietnam. Why on earth would she go to a Marine recruiter in 1975? And try to – and she was a lawyer professor in Fayetteville, Arkansas, married to Bill Clinton, or engaged to marry Bill Clinton. It doesn't make sense.

SCHULTZ: With all due respect, Andrea, why on earth are we talking about this?

MITCHELL: Because she brought it up in New Hampshire the other day. If she hadn't brought it up, it would not be an issue in this campaign.

SCHULTZ: Andrea, Andrea, what the story illustrated was that we have made a lot of progress in America. Secretary Clinton is absolutely right. I mean, back then, you did have a much tougher time for women to be able to make it successfully through the recruitment process and move up in the military and we’ve made tremendous progress since then.

And you know, same thing with the number of women that serve in Congress. We have a record number of women serving in Congress today, but you know, even the time – even during the time that I have been in office, we’ve come a long way.

It is absolutely important that we talk about, during this presidential campaign, the issues that are important to women, not just that we need to make more progress when it comes to the opportunities for women, but that we need to make sure that we get equal pay for equal work, where there's a very stark contrast between our three candidates for president and the Republicans, all of whom oppose enforcing equal pay for equal work. And you know, when it comes to –  

MITCHELL: Congresswoman.

SCHULTZ: Yes.

MITCHELL: I mean, with all due respect, I won't defer to anyone in terms of people who have done stories over the decades about the challenges of women in the military.

SCHULTZ: Oh, I agree. You have been remarkable.

MITCHELL: So I don't think that's the point. I think the point is just, did this happen? You have a presidential candidate, the frontrunner in the Democratic Party, saying something happened which is quite strikingly dissonant to people who knew her back then. We’re trying to find – I mean, the bottom line is that the campaign, her campaign spokesman put out a statement saying, “Her interest was sincere and it is insulting, but not surprising that Republicans would attack her for this, too.” So Nick Merrill is not saying she was doing it to make a point. He says that her interest in being recruited was sincere – I think.

SCHULTZ: I just find it really unreasonable, Andrea, and I know you have done stories and I certainly don't question your track record of making sure that those types of issues are raised publicly, but this is a personal story that Hillary Clinton has told, and it's not the first time she told it. It didn't come out of the blue.

But using it as an illustration is an important way to jump off so that you can talk about the topic of making sure that we continue to make progress for women in this country in a variety of ways. Where Democratic candidates for president are fighting for that and Republicans want to take women backwards. Republicans have brought us to the brink where they were willing to shut the government down over Planned Parenthood funding and access to health care for women.

This is a personal story of Hillary Clinton's and it is one that I’ve heard over the last few days is not where you can go back and ask a recruiter whether that happened. She was using it as an illustration and it's not the first time she raised it and it's an appropriate illustration and a personal experience.

Do we need every single experience in a person's life to be written in stone and blood and verifiable? There are things that happen to people all across America that can't be verified. And I know your next question's going to be about Ben Carson. And I think quite frankly, the same goes for stories about Ben Carson. The issues that are important to Americans in this race are who is going to go to bat for them, have their back, and make sure that they can build those cornerstones of a middle class life.

MITCHELL: And fair enough. In that regard, I was gonna play a little bit of Donald Trump and try to see how you react to him questioning her credentials on women's issues. Let's play Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: She's playing the woman card up. That's all she has. Honestly, outside of the woman's card she's got nothing going. Believe me. She's playing the women's card big league. And I know so many women, they said, “I wouldn't vote for her if you gave me a million dollars, I wouldn't vote for her.”

MITCHELL: Have at it.

SCHULTZ: Well, you know, Donald Trump has made misogynistic statements throughout this entire campaign, you know, been patronizing towards women. And I will tell you that whether it's Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Martin O'Malley, the overwhelming majority of women in this country support the agenda that they have been talking about championing if they were to become president.

And the Republicans have all talked about issues that would turn the clock back for women, whether it's on our health care, whether it's on making sure that we can get equal pay for equal work, whether it's making sure that we have access to an affordable education which so many women don't have access to now that you've got families in America who are headed by women, 40% of those who have children in the household.

And we need to make sure that women have economic opportunities so that they can have a good job with good pay, a good roof over their head, access to quality affordable health care, making sure that they can build towards a good education and then have a secure and safe retirement. All of those things are under attack by any one of the Republican candidates and all three of our candidates have been the champion of those issues, so that we can make sure Americans in this country have the chance to succeed. And that's the contrast that we continue to have in this election.

MITCHELL: Congresswoman, thank you very much. We’ll all be watching the debate. Thanks for being with us today.

SCHULTZ: Thank you so much, Andrea.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC