All political candidates are accused of lying at some point, and Hillary Clinton is no exception. But some people believe that Hillary Clinton is especially dishonest. The accusations are flying even stronger after news broke that she had, indeed, handled classified information carelessly by using a private email server and the DNC was planting anti-Sanders stories during the campaign. Is the idea that she’s more dishonest than most candidates a fair evaluation?
In a Washington Post/ABC poll from March, an astonishing 59% of those asked “Do you think Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy?” answered “No.” That sounds like a high number, and it is. But Donald Trump, in that same poll, received a 69% rate of “No.”
Despite this fact, the Trump campaign has launched LyingCrookedHillary.com – a website dedicated to exposing Hillary Clinton as a liar.
So what gives? Why is Hillary known for being a liar?
Ask the common person, and you’ll get a handful of responses. And a lot of that depends on when you ask. At this point in time, you’ll hear more about Benghazi or her email server. In ages past, you might hear about the Iraq war, gay marriage, TPP, or a dozen other topics.
That is why we took a hard look at six of the most widely touted “lies” of Hillary Clinton and asked: Is there anything to this?
As it turns out, there is. And here is what you need to know.
1. Clinton Falsely Claimed a ‘Strong Record’ on Gay Marriage
Clinton’s stance on gay marriage has evolved over time and, according to Politifact, has tracked very closely with public opinion polls. She has always been in favor of civil unions with equal rights as married couples, but didn’t publicly voice support for same sex marriage until 2013.
In 2000, at a news conference in New York, Clinton said:
Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman. But I also believe that people in committed gay marriages, as they believe them to be, should be given rights under the law that recognize and respect their relationship.”
In 2002, Clinton participated in an interview with Chris Matthews at the University of Albany in New York. Matthews asked her if New York state should recognize gay marriage and she simply answered: “No.”
In 2004, Clinton took to the Senate floor to speak against a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. This gives the appearance of support for gay marriage, but her rationale primarily focused on her opinion that such a decision should be left up to the states. She believed that the Defense Against Marriage Act (DOMA) was sufficient to protect the state’s rights in this matter. In that same speech on the Senate floor, she said:
I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. I have had occasion in my life to defend marriage, to stand up for marriage… So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they become adults.”
In November of 2010, while speaking at the University of Melbourne in Australia, Clinton was asked about her stance on same-sex marriage. She replied that she felt the matter of same-sex marriage should be decided on a state-by-state basis. She added:
I have not supported same-sex marriage. I have supported civil partnerships and contractual relationships. Yet I am supportive of our states’ taking actions that they believe reflects the evolution of attitudes about this… for many people it is sort of a symbolic issue, that if you don’t support that you don’t support equality between people, and particularly for the LGBT community. But I am very comfortable saying that we, in the Obama Administration, fully support every kind of equality … and we will continue to support states’ making their own decisions about this.”
In fact, Clinton didn’t publicly endorse same-sex marriage until 2013 when she released this video.
So it appears that Clinton changed her mind about same-sex marriage over time. The problem is that she has been mostly unwilling to acknowledge that record or to apologize for her previous opposition to gay marriage. She tends to simply state that she has evolved, and move on.
In a 2014 NPR interview with Terry Gross, starting around 27:30, Gross gave Clinton the chance to state that she has personally changed her opinion on the issue. At that point, Clinton became defensive and aggressively denied the allegation. Somewhat taken aback, Gross gave Clinton the chance to say that she only changed politically, but was always in support of same-sex marriage personally. Clinton proceeded to deny this as well, leaving listeners to wonder: what other option is there? Instead, Clinton became indignant and said:
“I have a strong record. I have a great commitment to this issue. And I’m proud of what I’ve done and the progress we are making.”
Her claim of a strong record is, of course, false. As shown above, Hillary has been outspoken in her opposition, working against gay marriage until very recently.
Her past record on gay marriage cannot be labeled as “strong,” since at one point in time she was opposed to it altogether. Clinton appeared to be unrepentant and has, in fact, avoided opportunities to apologize for her past opposition.
Recently, Clinton came under fire for trying to defend her husband’s support for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In an MSNBC interview with Rachel Maddow, she said:
“On Defense of Marriage, I think what my husband believed — and there was certainly evidence to support it — is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that there had to be some way to stop that.”
But many activists have disputed this claim, stating that, at the time Clinton signed DOMA, there was no discussion of a constitutional amendment. Though conservatives did eventually start a movement to amend the constitution, that did not occur until four years later.
Elizabeth Birch, who was executive director of the Human Rights Campaign from 1995 to 2004, told the Huffington Post,
“It’s ridiculous. There was no threat in the immediate vicinity of 1996 of a constitutional amendment. It came four years later. It may be that she needs to revisit the facts of what happened.”
When Bill Clinton had tried to use that same excuse years before, Birch had written an op-ed refuting the claim:
“In 1996, I was President of the Human Rights Campaign, and there was no real threat of a Federal Marriage Amendment. That battle would explode about eight years later, in 2004, when President Bush announced it was a central policy goal of his administration to pass such an amendment.”
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, also backed up Elizabeth’s take on the subject,
“It is not accurate to explain DOMA as motivated by an attempt to forestall a constitutional amendment. There was no such serious effort in 1996.”
In this light, it seems odd that Clinton would drudge up that same debunked theory, and it makes sense why this particular lie incensed so many front-lines activists.
2. Clinton Falsely Claimed That She Landed Under Sniper Fire in Bosnia
During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Clinton claimed that she landed under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996 when she was First Lady. That story, it turns out, was simply not true.
“I remember landing under sniper fire,” Clinton said during a March 17, 2008 speech at George Washington University. “There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”
Emmy award winning journalist Sharyl Attkisson, a CBS news reporter who accompanied Clinton on that trip, unequivocally refuted the story.
Actor and comedian Sinbad, another attendee, contradicted Hillary Clinton’s account of the events as well.
When challenged on her assertion, Clinton altered course. According to an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on March 25, 2008, Clinton said she had been sleep deprived and simply “misspoke” when she talked about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia.
But calling this an isolated occasion was a lie as well. A lie to cover up the first lie. Reporters found that she had used the same story at least two different times in the preceding months. Once in Iowa in December of 2007 and again in Texas in February of 2008.
Confronted with these facts, her position changed significantly. Speaking to a group of reporters, she said:
You know, I made a mistake in describing it. I have said many times … we were … told by the Secret Service and the military that we were going into a war zone and that we had to be conscious of that. I was the first first lady taken into a war zone since Eleanor Roosevelt.
And, you know, I think that the military and the Secret Service did a terrific job. But we certainly did take precautions. There is no doubt about that, and I remember that very clearly.
But I did make a mistake in talking about it the last time and recently.”
But the exaggeration didn’t stop there. When confronted with footage that showed her stopping on the tarmac to speak with a little girl, Clinton told reporters:
“I was also told that the greeting ceremony had been moved away from the tarmac but that there was this eight-year-old girl and I said, ‘Well, I, I can’t, I can’t rush by her, I’ve got to at least greet her. So I greeted her, I took her stuff and I left. Now that’s my memory of it.”
“She and her daughter Chelsea lingered on the tarmac to greet U.S. military officials, took photos, and then walked to the armored vehicle where she did, eventually, duck and enter.”
According to eye witness Sharyl Attkinson, the footage also shows her taking pictures with a group of seventh graders.
3. Clinton Is Probably Sincere About Her Position on the Iraq War
This is one example when the claims that she lied were most likely not true. On February 7, 2007, Hillary Clinton said this on the Senate floor:
“If I had been President in October 2002 I would have never asked for authority to divert our attention from Afghanistan to Iraq and I certainly would have never started this war.”
While we don’t know for certain what Clinton would have done as President, we do know what she did and said as a senator.
For starters, in 2002 Sen. Clinton voted in favor of authorizing the use of force in Iraq in a bill formally known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.
Before the vote, on October 10, 2002 in her speech to the Senate, Clinton strongly encouraged the use of diplomacy. In no uncertain terms, she condemned unilateral action, stating that:
“If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us.”
But she also said:
“In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.”
The vote took place the day after Clinton made this speech, and the resolution passed by a vote of 77 to 23.
On February 3, 2016, Clinton attended a CNN Town Hall event in New Hampshire. During a Q&A with the audience, she claimed that she only voted for the bill because President Bush said that he needed to use it as leverage in order to finish the inspections.
This has become a point of contention. Some analysts believe that if that were truly Clinton’s motivation, then she would have supported the Levin amendment. Clinton voted against that resolution, which failed in the Senate shortly before passage of the Iraq resolution that same day. Clinton’s opponent Lincoln Chafee wrote this opinion article on the topic.
The Levin amendment purported to limit the use of force until other diplomatic options had been exhausted, specifically urging cooperation with the United Nations. But here’s where things get tricky. Opponents of the amendment, Clinton included, say it could have compromised the leverage of the United States regarding the weapons inspections. Proponents of the amendment explicitly deny this and even allege that opponents are being disingenuous in that characterization.
Full text of the amendment, formally titled “Multilateral Use of Force Authorization Act of 2002” can be found here.
The most relevant provisions are as follows:
From Section 2
(1) supports the President’s call for the United Nations to address the threat to international peace and security posed by Saddam Hussein’s continued refusal to meet Iraq’s obligations…
(2) urges the United Nations Security Council to adopt promptly a resolution that would–
(A) demand that Iraq provide immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access of the United Nations weapons inspectors…
(B) authorize the use of necessary and appropriate military force by member states of the United Nations to enforce such resolution in the event that the Government of Iraq refuses to comply; and
(3) affirms that, under international law and the United Nations Charter, the United States has at all times the inherent right to use military force in self-defense.”
And from Section 3
“(a) Authorization.–Pursuant to a resolution of the United Nations Security Council described in section 2(2) that is
adopted after the enactment of this joint resolution, and subject to subsection (b), the President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States to destroy, remove, or render harmless Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons-usable material, ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers, and related facilities, if Iraq fails to comply with the terms of the Security Council resolution.
(b) Requirements.–Before the authority granted in subsection (a) is exercised, the President shall make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that the United States has used appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means to obtain compliance by Iraq with a resolution of the United Nations Security Council described in section 2(2) and that those efforts have not been and are not likely to be successful in obtaining such compliance.”
For her part, it seems that Clinton probably held a bonafide belief that the Levin amendment could undermine the leverage of the United States. That is, if her aforementioned speech on the Senate floor is to be taken at face value. She said, for example:
Others argue that we should work through the United Nations and should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it. This too has great appeal for different reasons. The UN deserves our support. Whenever possible we should work through it and strengthen it, for it enables the world to share the risks and burdens of global security and when it acts, it confers a legitimacy that increases the likelihood of long-term success. The UN can help lead the world into a new era of global cooperation and the United States should support that goal.
But there are problems with this approach as well …
In the case of Iraq, recent comments indicate that one or two Security Council members might never approve force against Saddam Hussein until he has actually used chemical, biological, or God forbid, nuclear weapons.”
All of this indicates that Clinton probably isn’t lying about her stance on the Iraq war.
That conclusion is undermined, however, by her somewhat hawkish statements about military action both before and after the vote.
For instance, a month before the vote on Meet The Press, she said: “I can support the President, I can support an action against Saddam Hussein because I think it’s in the long-term interests of our national security …”
And her statement to the Council on Foreign Relations on December 2003, shortly after the capture of Saddam Hussein:
I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote. I have had many disputes and disagreements with the administration over how that authority has been used, but I stand by the vote to provide the authority because I think it was a necessary step in order to maximize the outcome that did occur in the Security Council with the unanimous vote to send in inspectors. And I also knew that our military forces would be successful.”
So, while this does give the impression of playing both sides, Clinton has remained fairly consistent on the topic of why she had authorized force in Iraq and how she’d expected things to be done differently.
Lastly, during the 2008 Presidential campaign, Clinton claimed that she, as a U.S. Senator, was opposed to the Iraq war before then-U.S. Senator Obama. At a campaign stop in Eugene Oregon on April 5 2008, she said:
“I actually started criticizing the war in Iraq before he did.”
Clinton qualified this assertion with the admission that Obama has been critical of the Iraq war as an Illinois Senator in 2002, but that, during their concurrent terms as Senator, which began in 2005, she had been first to criticize the conflict. In support of this, Clinton cited a news release from her office dated January 26, 2005.
Despite her convoluted reasoning, Clinton was wrong even by her own standards. As it turns out, Obama had renewed his criticism of the war on January 18, 2005, a full week earlier than Hillary, during Condoleezza Rice’s confirmation hearings.
While this can technically be called a lie, it was likely merely accidental: a small inaccuracy about an already weak point.
So, on the whole, Clinton has been fairly consistent on her stance on the Iraq war and her vote to authorize it. While experts might call her position that Hussein was aiding terrorists to be misguided, or her position on the Levin amendment to be unfounded, Clinton hasn’t shown blatant dishonesty in either of these cases. And while her assertion that, as a Senator, she criticized the Iraq war before then Senator Obama has been proven to be false, this appears to be a case of factual inaccuracy rather than a premeditated lie.
4. In the New York Primary Debate, Clinton Misrepresented Her Support for a $15 Federal Minimum Wage
Hillary Clinton has been difficult to understand regarding her stance on the minimum wage. But one thing she has been consistent on is that is should be higher than it currently is.
As far as research shows, Clinton supports a national $12 minimum wage, but not a national $15 minimum wage. At the same time, she does support certain state and local governments’ going to a $15 minimum wage.
During the November 2015 debate in Iowa, Kathie Obradovich first asked Sanders: “You called for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour everywhere in the country. But the President’s former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, has said a national increase of $15 could lead to undesirable and unintended consequences of job loss. What level of job loss would you consider unacceptable?”
When Clinton addressed the same question, she said:
…I do take what Alan Krueger said seriously. … However, what Alan Krueger said in the piece you’re referring to is that if we went to $15, there are no international comparisons. That is why I support a $12 national federal minimum wage. That is what the Democrats in the Senate have put forward as a proposal. But I do believe that is a minimum. And places like Seattle, like Los Angeles, like New York City, they can go higher. It’s what happened in Governor O’Malley’s state. There was a minimum wage at the state level, and some places went higher.”
But in the 2016 New York primary debate, when asked directly, Clinton said that, as president, she would sign a bill to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Watch it here at around the 33 minute mark.
Wolf Blitzer asked: “As President, if a Democratic Congress put a $15 minimum wage bill on your desk, would you sign it?”
And Clinton responded:
Well of course I would. And I have supported, I have supported the fight for 15…”
This appears to indicate a change of heart. And Bernie Sanders called her on it. He said, “To suddenly announce now that you’re for $15, I don’t think is quite accurate.”
I have said from the very beginning that I supported the fight for $15. … I supported the $15 effort in L.A. I supported in Seattle. I supported it for the fast food workers in New York.
The minimum wage at the national level right now is $7.25, right? We want to raise it higher than it ever has been, but we also have to recognize some states and some cities will go higher… I have taken my cue from the Democrats in the Senate… (who said) we will set a national level of $12 and then urge any place that can go above it to go above it. … I think setting the goal to get to $12 is the way to go, encouraging others to get to $15. But, of course, if we have a Democratic Congress, we will go to $15.”
Sanders responded: “Well, I think the secretary has confused a lot of people. I don’t know how you’re there for the fight for $15 when you say you want a $12-an-hour national minimum wage.”
That exchange seemed to indicate that while Clinton would prefer a $15 minimum wage, she is willing to compromise with legislatures to get to $12. But is that accurate? Does Clinton personally support a national $15 minimum wage?
No. She explained in the November debate that she does not support it nationally because it may result in job loss. And subsequent interviews after the New York debate indicate that she hasn’t actually changed from that position.
When asked by George Stephanopoulos about this inconsistency, Clinton explained she would be in favor of such a bill if it made allowances for rural areas to have a lower standard than $15. This equivocation was absent in the Brooklyn, New York primary debate.
So, in conclusion, Clinton does not support an across-the-board national $15 minimum wage, even though the words she used in the New York debate made it appear to voters that she did. Both before and after the debate, Clinton has consistently opposed a national $15 minimum wage, although her nuanced position has mostly supported a $12 minimum wage with some exceptions for the wage being higher than that in some regions.
5. Hillary Falsely Claimed That She Was Always Opposed to NAFTA
Was Hillary a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning? She certainly says she was. In 2008, Clinton told a group of reporters, “I have spoken consistently against NAFTA and the way it’s been implemented.”
She has also said, “I was one of the voices in the administration warning about NAFTA.”
And again, according to NPR: “You know, I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning.”
The documents reveal she held at least five meetings to strategize about how to win congressional approval (of NAFTA). She helped the White House block opposition from labor and environmental groups, and she was the featured speaker at a crucial meeting on November 10, 1993, where 120 women opinion leaders were asked to help lobby the Senate for passage of the deal.”
According to ABC News, participants in that event said, “Her remarks were totally pro-NAFTA and what a good thing it would be for the economy. There was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time. ”
In 1996, during a visit with unionized garment workers, she said, “I think everybody is in favor of free and fair trade. I think NAFTA is proving its worth,” according to an Associated Press report.
And this statement made in 2007 indicates that she definitely had positive expectation for NAFTA: “NAFTA was a mistake to the extent that it did not deliver on what we had hoped it would.”
So either she was lying in 2007, when she said she had positive expectations for NAFTA, and again in 1993 when she lobbied for it, or she was lying in 2008 when she says she was “a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning.”
For more information, see David Shuster’s excellent coverage of the deception for Hardball.
6. Clinton Lied When She Said She Never Sent Classified Information on Her Private Email Server
The video above shows Clinton saying that she never sent any classified material in the past. Specifically, she said:
I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material, so I am certainly well aware of the classification requirements, and did not send classified material.”
On July 5, FBI Director James Comey said that she had, indeed, sent and received 110 emails about classified matters on her private server. These emails were easily hackable and she and her aides were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information. But the FBI does not recommend charges against Clinton.
For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters.
AP wrote an extensive story that fact checked many of Clinton’s statements compared with Comey’s, showing many times that she was dishonest. You can read the list at this link.
On YouTube, this video compares Clinton’s statements with Comey’s statements: