Saturday, September 12, 2015

Rumors vs Facts on Hillary Clinton's Email

Today I'd like to re-work an old saying: A rumor travels around the globe while facts are putting on their shoes. That's what I think about when I watch this whole story about Hillary Clinton's emails while she was Secretary of State.

As you know by now, the rumors have been flying lately, fueled in large part by shoddy reporting at the New York Times - of all places. Then on Wednesday, there was an important development in the story. By Thursday, the only media reporting about it was the Washington Times. Then on Friday, Buzzfeed had an article about it.
In a little noticed brief, filed on Wednesday to a federal court, Department of Justice lawyers outlined a comprehensive defense of the contentious decision by Hillary Clinton to wipe the private email server she used as secretary of state: The attorneys assert that, regardless of whether she used a personal or government account, Clinton was within her legal right to handpick the emails that qualified as federal records — and to delete the ones she deemed personal.

“There is no question that former Secretary Clinton had authority to delete personal emails without agency supervision — she appropriately could have done so even if she were working on a government server,” write the Justice Department attorneys, representing the State Department in the brief. The lawyers add that under policies issued by the State Department and by NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration, government employees “are permitted and expected to exercise judgment to determine what constitutes a federal record.”
By Friday night, major news outlets like the Associated Press had the story and then (finally!) New York Times ran with it.

I am not one that buys into conspiracy theories about how news outlets have political biases (other than Fox News, of course). But it has been fascinating to watch some of them jump at the first rumor of wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton and then be so slow to provide facts that exonerate her. It’s not so clear that another old saying - “better late than never” - gives them much cover.


  1. Stories of wrong doing generate more "looks" than stories of right doing. The profit motive is strong. The news, real news, suffers greatly when the news department puts profits above the truth.

  2. You don't need to buy into political conspiracies to understand that the mainstream media, especially the New York Times, has had it in for the Clinton's for decades. Why remains a mystery, but there is no doubt that their desire to get their scalp is real. It started long ago with their original reporting on Whitewater. It took me years to understand why I just couldn't figure out why people were so hot under the collar for this nothing of a story: it's because they went into it *assuming* that the Clintons did something wrong.

    I thing political objectivity is a pipe dream when it comes to political reporting. But I think it is possible to be objective at least when it comes to deciding whether the facts actually support or refute a particular point of view. Scientists do it all the time. If they can so can journalists.

    But then that requires a lot of work and a certain humbleness that is sorely lacking in big media personalities.