In a "Fact Check" published Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press's Thomas Beaumont insisted that Donald Trump's September 16 statement that "Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy," namely that then-candidate Barack Obama was not born in the United States, "is as untrue as his original lie." Some readers who don't get past paragraph three might even believe that Trump started it all. And this is a "fact check"?
Beaumont's bluster appears to be in response to center-right bloggers and pundits who correctly refuse to let Hillary Clinton campaign and her gatekeepers in the press get away with revising history and ignoring new corroborating facts. To believe Beaumont, one has to believe that longtime Clinton aide and confidant Sidney Blumenthal's rumor-shopping to various members of the press doesn't matter, because he "was not officially part of the (Hillary Clinton 2008) campaign staff." What rubbish. The facts show that he was much more important to Hillary Clinton than that.
A September 20 Washington Examiner editorial reminds us that Blumenthal's association with the Clintons and with smear operations on their behalf goes back almost two decades (link is in original; bolds are mine throughout this post):
Former McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief James Asher came forward on Friday amid a resurgence in coverage of "birtherism" as it's known, to reveal that Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton's closest friend, adviser and confidante, explicitly urged him to cover the story that Obama had really been born in Kenya, pressing him hard enough that he actually made the decision to send a reporter there.
... In the Clintons' heyday, Blumenthal was known to chat up journalists and steer them away from Clinton controversies by any means necessary. He notoriously earned his reputation as an unscrupulous hatchet-man when it was revealed that he shopped around the idea that the young intern, Monica Lewinsky, was a vindictive stalker seeking to harm Bill Clinton.
What is often forgotten from that saga is that Blumenthal, who at the time was a "senior (Bill) Clinton aide," lied to the United States Senate in 1999 in connection with impeachment charges against then-President Bill Clinton when, concerning the stalker claims, he testified that "I have no idea how anything came to be attributed to a White House source."
How do we know this? Because the late Christopher Hitchens — alone among all journalists, though it's inconceivable that he was the only one with whom Blumenthal communicated — "filed an affidavit testifying that his old friend ... had repeated the president’s (stalker) smears about Monica Lewinsky." Blumenthal laid out his "stalker" claim at a lunch with Hitchens' wife Carol present:
“what people need to understand” (Blumenthal said) was that Monica Lewinsky was a stalker, an unstable minx who had been threatening Clinton and telling him that if he didn’t have sex with her she would say he had anyway. This was no informal chat; we weren’t asked to keep that interpretation to ourselves; the presence was that of Sidney but the spin was His Master’s Voice.
... at the time, this seemed like no more than a disappointing lunch. Our old pal had said one rather disagreeable thing and had asked us to believe in one self-evidently preposterous theory.
... Then came Clinton’s Senate trial. Suddenly, it was important to the White House to deny that Monica Lewinsky had ever been slandered. Why was it important, and why would they run the risk of telling such a transparent lie? It was important because it bore on the matter of obstruction of justice.
... How, then, did the White House expect to get away with the lie? They expected to get away with it because they had made everyone complicit.
Hitchens alone bucked the tide.
With that background, we can now go back to the Examiner's editorial, and see that the same complicity to which Hitchens referred is still in place, while noting that Blumenthal's importance to Hillary Clinton expanded:
Unlike the low-level Clinton volunteers, in Iowa, who were fired, Blumenthal is as high-level as one can get when it comes to the Clintons. One wonders how many other journalists are not coming forward yet to confirm Asher's story with similar experiences of their own.
Blumenthal failed in his 2008 attempt to make the Obama-birther story metastasize into something greater than just the buzz of fever swamps on the Right, and in his larger mission of making Clinton president.
But Clinton rewarded him for his efforts all the same, and in so doing assumed the guilt for this scandal that Blumenthal incurred. After she lost that race and was given the State Department as consolation, she still tried to reward him with a top job there. Obama intervened to prevent this, barring him from any position in his administration. Perhaps now we know the real reason why. So instead she put him on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation, that great slush fund for keeping Clinton campaigners on retainer.
Having Blumenthal at her side was so important that Hillary Clinton was willing to risk her relationship with President Obama by clandestinely using him as a trusted adviser when the White House had specifically vetoed his presence at the State Department or anywhere else in the Obama administration. The emails gleaned from Mrs. Clinton's private server and other sources demonstrate that Blumenthal had an "expansive role" during her tenure as Secretary of State.
This background makes an utter mockery of how the AP's Beaumont attempted to write off Blumenthal's role in the 2008 "birther" rumors:
By one account, an important unofficial adviser to Clinton did stoke rumors about Obama's country of birth. Conway cited Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal meeting the Washington bureau chief for McClatchy newspapers at the time, James Asher, and telling him Obama was born in Kenya.
Blumenthal has denied discussing the subject with Asher, who maintains he met with the Clinton confidant. McClatchy correspondents have said it's true Asher asked them to look into Obama's ties to Kenya. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Asher on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
But there is no dispute that Blumenthal, while close to Clinton, was not officially part of the campaign staff. The McClatchy newspapers found nothing to support the claim that Obama was born in Kenya.
Beaumont had to know by the time he submitted his laughable "fact check" that there is more than "one account" of Blumenthal's 2008 birther- and other smear-shopping activities. As I noted in a Wednesday NewsBusters post, No Quarter USA blogger Larry Johnson, who in 2008 was an avid Hillary Clinton supporter, reported the following the previous Friday:
(Hillary Clinton's) campaign not only pushed that (birther) item in a bid to discredit Barack Obama, but mounted a sustained campaign attack Obama on a broad array of issues. How do I know? I was part of that effort and was in regular email and phone coordination with Sidney Blumenthal. Sidney was the conduit who fed damaging material to me that I subsequently posted on my blog.
... Listening to Hillary Clinton cry crocodile tears over Trump’s questioning Obama’s birth place and eligibility to be President in 2011 as a “racist” attack is the ultimate example that Hillary is cynical and dishonest. Yes, it is true that the words, “Obama is a muslim” or “Obama is not a natural born American” never passed her lips. But it is also true that that people very close to her, such as Sidney Blumenthal, were pushing those stories and trying desperately to promote those memes.
Hillary knew about all of these lines of attack on Obama.
In a follow-up post, Johnson wrote:
I personally do not know if the original interest in exploring the questions about the Obama birth certificate (or lack of a certificate) originated with the Clinton campaign. But I do know that a whole host of issues, such as Barack Obama’s ties to a terrorist and Michelle Obama’s alleged use of the incendiary term, “whitey,” did originate with the Clinton campaign.
Beaumont apparently believes that Johnson's account doesn't "count" because he's not part of the Washington gatekeeping crew. Further, it explains why the basic credibility of so much establishment press reporting has to be viewed as presumptively suspect unless and until someone with demonstrated credibility confirms it.
Beaumont's attempt to write off Blumenthal because "he was not officially part of the campaign staff" compounds the mendacity. As noted earlier and as now has been shown, he was much more important than that — so important that, as Johnson contends, Hillary Clinton "knew about all of these lines of attack on Obama" — and let them continue until near the bitter end of her failed 2008 presidential campaign.
It is thus absolutely true that Mrs. Clinton, who as the in-charge candidate with knowledge of what Blumenthal was doing, is herself responsible, as Donald Trump contends, for having "started the birther controversy." All of the bogus "fact checks" by AP and others will never change that.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.