As of Friday morning, ABC, CBS, and NBC's morning and evening newscasts have yet to cover Hillary Clinton's false claim that all four of her grandparents emigrated to the United States. In reality, only one – Hugh Rodham, Sr. – was born abroad in England. By contrast, all three main cable news channels – CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC – covered Mrs. Clinton's tall tale about her family between Wednesday evening and Thursday evening.
On Thursday, ABC's World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News did find time to cover a Hillary – but not the Democratic presidential candidate. The ABC evening newscast devoted a full report to singer Hillary Scott of the country group Lady Antebellum posting on social media about her tour bus catching on fire after a tire blew, while the NBC program aired a brief on the story.
Among the first to pick up on the former first lady's falsehood was MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, who mentioned the statement on his Wednesday program during a panel discussion segment. He played a clip of the remark in question, as well as an April 2014 comment that Clinton made about one grandparent in particular:
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: I want to play something she said today about her grandparents. Let's listen to this.
HILLARY CLINTON (from April 15, 2015 campaign event): There are a lot of immigrant stories. You know, all my grandparents – you know, came over here and – you know, my grandfather went to work in a – in a lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and worked there until he retired at 65. He started when he was a teenager and – you know, just kept going.
CLINTON (from April 26, 2014 speech): My grandmother, on my father's side – Hanna Jones Rodham – she emigrated with her family as a young girl to Scranton, and went to work, very young, in a silk mill.
The MSNBC host inadvertently exposed a second time that the former New York senator gave a misleading statement about an ancestor. Hanna Jones Rodham was actually born in Scranton, as Politifact pointed out in a Thursday article. However, O'Donnell downplayed her falsehood in his question to panelist E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post:
O'DONNELL: So in the second one, she mentioned only one grandparent, E.J. Dionne. That's because the things she said today about 'all my grandparents' was, of course, instantly fact-checked; and it turns out, well, three of them were born here. Only one of them arrived as an immigrant – which is what these early days in Iowa are for – getting those kinds of wrinkles straightened out. Isn't that what it's about at this point, E.J.?
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, first of all, everything comes back to Scranton. If Joe Biden runs, he's from Scranton. So Pennsylvania is always at the center of things. Yeah – I mean, the way we campaign now, you cannot make any mistakes or any misstatements. And obviously she was called out on that.
The following morning, on Thursday's The Rundown, MSNBC's Jose Diaz-Balart wondered if Clinton's false statement "could do damage to her credibility." NBC News senior political director Mark Murray replied by asserting that it could be used by Republicans as part of an effort to "pounce" on her trustworthiness. On Fox News Channel, The Five, The Kelly File, and Hannity programs all covered the Democratic politician's fable on their Thursday editions.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer spotlighted Mrs. Clinton's erroneous claim on Thursday's Wolf, and read her campaign's "correction:"
WOLF BLITZER: They say to get your family tree done the fastest, run for political office. Case in point: presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – during a conversation on immigration reform on Wednesday, the former secretary of state said this.
HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from April 15, 2015 campaign event): All my grandparents – you know, came over here and – you know, my grandfather went to work in a – in a lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and worked there until he retired at 65. He started when he was a teenager, and – you know, just kept going.
BLITZER: After a check of public census and other records, the reality is only one of Secretary Clinton's grandparents emigrated – her paternal grandfather was born in England. The Clinton camp issued a response, and let me read it to you: 'Her grandparents always spoke about the immigrant experience and, as a result, she has always thought of them as immigrants. As has been correctly pointed out, while her grandfather was an immigrant, it appears that Hillary's grandmother was born shortly after her parents and siblings arrived in the United States in the early 1880s.'
Nearly three hours later, Jake Tapper also mentioned it on his program, The Lead, and asked correspondent Nia-Malika Henderson for her take. Like Diaz-Balart, Henderson zeroed in on Clinton's longstanding credibility problem:
JAKE TAPPER: Nia-Malika, Secretary [Hillary] Clinton told a small audience in Norwalk, Iowa yesterday that – quote, 'All my grandparents came over here.' Buzzfeed, among others, looked into it. Only one of her grandparents was an immigrant to this nation. She's probably not used to having her comments dissected this way – even when she was secretary of state. It was a relatively apolitical position.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yeah – and you see politicians often get into this trouble with their biography, because they're really trying to overplay or play up their humble beginnings, but also try to play up the – sort of, the aspirational arc of their careers and bios.
I think, for her, it will probably blow over. Stuff like this usually does. Marco Rubio kind of got into a similar trouble with some of the facts of his bio. I think for her, it is showing that she's a little bit rusty – that she can't speak in these, kind of, vague terms in the way she used to. But it also gets at an underlying challenge she has – and some polls show this – with credibility and with honesty, and whether or not she has a problem being straightforward on some issues.