Why Does Bill Clinton Get a Fact-Check Pass?

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Is any fact-checker in the Mother Jones San Francisco office able to lend Bill Clinton a hand? On the campaign trail recently, he echoed the Clinton campaign’s argument that the pressure Hillary Clinton is facing to quit the Democratic race is “unprecedented” and that primary races routinely last into June. It’s particularly odd because Bill was part of a race where also-ran candidates were pressured to get out and the frontrunner, Big Dawg himself, had the nomination wrapped up in March.

Here’s the NYT fact-check that disproves all this. Look, I love Bill as much as the next guy, and I’m weary of the Clinton pile-ons (the RFK assassination stuff was nonsense and we didn’t touch it here on MoJoBlog), but Bill is either deliberately misleading Hillary’s supporters or he’s completely resorted his memory and convinced himself of something that isn’t true. And this is far from the first time he’s done this. Remember when he defended Hillary’s sniper fire comments? He made so many errors that ABC had to footnote them. He claimed after South Carolina that the Obama campaign had played the race card on him, then denied that he had ever said that.

While Hillary Clinton gets something wrong, the press usually debunks it immediately. But Bill Clinton largely gets a pass. Something’s going on here. Possible explanations are below. Give us yours in the comments.

(1) Bill isn’t running, so he’s given less scrutiny. The first half is obviously correct but the second half isn’t. Bill’s flubs do draw attention, they just don’t draw out the fact-checker hidden inside every journalist. And they don’t seem to attract much ire.
(2) He’s rusty and out of practice on the stump, so the media gives him a pass. This time it’s the first half that’s wrong. Bill’s been stumping for Hillary for over half a year now. The “rusty” argument doesn’t fly.
(3) Bill is so devoted to his wife and her cause that he’s either bending the facts to make the case for her or he’s convinced himself that the misrepresentations he’s uttering are true. The media will give someone a pass when their psychology is laid so bare.
(4) Bill is desperately trying to show his wife and the world that he’s making amends for mistreating her for decades. The media will give someone a pass when they look so pathetic in front of millions.
(5) He’s America’s lovable ex-president and he can say whatever he wants. Even Obama-lovers kinda roll their eyes when he gets stuff wrong.
(6) He’s seen as a zany, cranky old man — despite being nine years younger than John McCain — whose time on the national stage is over. Everyone will just tolerate him for a little while longer and then he’ll go back to eating barbecue in Arkansas. Or jetting around with Ron Burkle.

If you’re looking for a single explanation, you won’t find one here. I don’t have a unified theory to explain Bill Clinton’s actions. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a combination of numbers three through six. As always with the Democrats’ first couple, it’s complicated.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

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