“Somebody’s lying,” I said to Hillary Clinton. “Who is it?”
“Well, it’s not me,” she answered. “That’s all I can tell you.”
Tom Eastman, Mark Guerringue, Hillary Clinton
This was last Wednesday when Hillary’s huge entourage returned to The Conway Daily Sun’s office for another interview. She’d been there in 2007 during her first presidential campaign but I was still teaching then and I missed it. This time I really wanted to be there, so I drove twenty-five miles in a snowstorm, hoping she wouldn’t cancel. She didn’t.
Few journalists are able to pin her down because she controls who gets to ask her questions as well as what those questions will be. I don’t think she was expecting any tough ones at the Sun interview. Sun publisher Mark Guerringue’s opening comments included a reference to the Benghazi attack and her conflicting claims about what caused it. She referred to several congressional investigations, saying: “If people don’t want to accept the facts, there’s nothing I can do about that… and for people to use [Stevens’] death, Seans’s death, and the death of the two CIA contractor’s for political purposes really dishonors them and… their whole purpose is to somehow derail me. And I understand it’s nothing but politics to them but it’s not just politics to me.”
I inserted myself at this point, saying: “I have a specific question about that if I could interject.”
“Sure,” said Mark.
Turning to Hillary, I said, “You mentioned the families of the Benghazi victims and the discrepancy Mark brought up about your email — or conversation maybe — with your daughter…”
“Um-hmm,” said Hillary.
“…about it being an al Qaida-like group, Ansar al Sharia. Then you told an Egyptian diplomat in a phone conversation that it was a planned attack and not a protest. Umm, but then, when the bodies were brought back, you spoke to the family members and you told them, they say that you told them, this was a spontaneous demonstration. And then George Stephanopolous asked on This Week: “Did you tell them it was about the film?”
Hillary on This Week
“Um-hmm,” she said.
“And you said, ‘No.’ Now, somebody’s lying…”
“Well first let me say,” she interjected, but I pressed on.
“…Who is it?”
“Well, not me. That’s all I can tell you,” she continued. “But, you know, people were incredibly emotionally distraught. Let, let’s give everybody a little bit of breathing room here and recognize that, [pause] There — I mean I-I’m trying to remember what is in the public record and what isn’t. Let’s just say that some of the families didn’t even know that their sons were working for the CIA and were in Benghazi. This was a huge emotional blow, and I’m very sympathetic to that. I can only tell you what the facts were. That period when I talked to the Egyptian Prime Minister was in that bubble when we thought there was a terrorist group taking credit for it, and that’s what we said. And when they withdrew, and when the intelligence community, led by the CIA, basically said we don’t know yet. Because remember, the CIA and the intel community was guiding us about what they thought happened and we had to rely on that. We didn’t have any independent information or verification. All this material was coming in. The CIA was sorting it out.”
There were several places here where I wanted to interrupt her, but I restrained myself and let her go on.
She went on, saying, “And if you look at the reports that were done, ah, by the minority on the Benghazi Committee, because it’s a much more reliable source than the Republican majority. They go through, chapter and verse, timing, about what happened, when, and the bottom line is what happened is that people were doing the best they could dealing with information that was changing, and the CIA wrote and approved the talking points that were used, ahh, and it was also true that from Egypt, to Tunisia, to Pakistan, the video was the primary spark that was sending people into protesting against our facilities. All of this was happening simultaneously. It wasn’t either/or as much as people want to get to the bottom of it. It was an amalgam of information and action.”
“I’m sure those people were distraught,” I said.
“Yes,” she said.
“Three different people — Tyrone Woods’ father said — about you — that you said, ‘We’re going to have those people arrested who were responsible for the death of your son.’ Sean Smith’s mother reported, ‘She [Hillary] said that it was because of the video.’ And then Glenn Doherty’s sister said that, “You chose to, in that moment, to basically perpetuate what you knew was untrue.’ So, all three of them say you told them that.”
“Well,” she said.
I ignored her and continued, “And you say you didn’t tell them that.”
“I can only tell you what I know happened,” she said. “I can’t, I can’t speak to them. I can tell you what Chris Steven’s family believes. I can tell you what Sean Smith’s wife believes. I can tell you what other family members believe, because yes,”
“But you didn’t tell them that,” I said.
“I did not tell them that, but, I can’t recite for you everything that was in a conversation where people were sobbing, where people were distraught, where groups of us — the president, the vice president — we were all making the rounds, talking to people, listening to people, and I was in a very difficult position because I had not yet said that two of the four people dead were CIA. Because we were under, ah, very strict directions, from the CIA, not to reveal that yet. So this was — this was — again, part of the fog of war. And, you know, I regret that anybody [pause] has a [pause], you know, an attitude or feeling that I do not [pause] think [pause] is accurate, but I’m not going to do anything other than express my sympathy for them because, I think they deserve it. They were, people who lost their children. They have every right to believe whatever they want to believe, but the facts don’t bear it out.”
Being part of a team I dropped it there, not because I wanted to — especially when she said, “the CIA wrote and approved the talking points that were used.” — but because I could not dominate the interview with about twenty others present who also wanted to question her.
Coincidentally, that very morning I did a telephone interview with Carly Fiorina, the other woman running for president, and told her about the pending Clinton interview. I said if you could ask Hillary one question, what would it be? Without hesitation, Carly said: “Why did you lie? Why did you lie to American people the morning after the Benghazi attack?” I told her that’s exactly the question I chose. Carly’s interview deserves its own column, which is coming up next.
For three years, I’ve been angry that Hillary Clinton, President Obama, Susan Rice, and others, claimed it was a spontaneous demonstration over a video that killed four Americans at Benghazi and not a radical Muslim terrorist attack. I wrote about it several times including here and here. They knew different, and they said what they knew was not true. That’s lying — but I never heard any journalist or member of Congress ever use that word to Hillary’s face — and that’s what I was determined to do when I had the chance.
I did, and the Sun’s account of the interview, containing an accurate but abbreviated mention of my exchange with Hillary, was linked by The Drudge Report. From there it was picked up by dozens of media outlets. My intent here is to give readers a complete and accurate account our five-minute exchange.