posted at 5:01 pm on September 13, 2016 by John Sexton
CBS News edited a video to remove a statement Bill Clinton made during an interview about Hillary Clinton’s health. Yesterday I published a story containing a partial transcript of Clinton’s comments from an interview with Charlie Rose. As it turns out, that transcript was incomplete. From the Hill:
“Well, if it is then it’s a mystery to me and all of her doctors,” Bill Clinton said when Rose asked him if Hillary Clinton was simply dehydrated or if the situation was more serious. “Frequently — well not frequently, rarely, on more than one occasion, over the last many, many years, the same sort of thing’s happened to her when she got severely dehydrated, and she’s worked like a demon, as you know, as Secretary of State, as a senator, and in the year since.”
But the CBS Evening News version cut Clinton’s use of “frequently” out. And a review by The Hill of the official transcript released by the network shows Clinton saying “Frequently — well not frequently,” is omitted as well.
The version of the interview shown Monday night on the CBS Evening News (and a transcript of the show as broadcast) leaves out Bill Clinton’s remark. It was included in a story published Monday night by CBS News. Also, the full version of the interview was shown Tuesday on CBS This Morning. So while it doesn’t appear CBS was trying to hide the remark it’s an odd thing to edit given that the frequency of Hillary’s fainting spells is the key question about this incident. The fact that her husband said this had happened “frequently” before quickly correcting himself seems noteworthy and not something that belongs on the cutting room floor.
CBS News has a history of failing to highlight information that might tend to make a Democratic candidate look bad. Recall that in 2012 Mitt Romney was widely judged to have blown a debate with President Obama when he suggested the president had not identified the Benghazi attack as an “act of terror” in a speech given the next morning. CNN’s Candy Crowley fact-checked Romney and CNN backed her up later. Meanwhile, CBS News had video from a 60 Minutes interview with the president which was shot the same day Obama gave the speech. In the edited segment Obama agreed he had avoided labeling the attack terrorism.
CBS knew it had this clip but sat on it until two days before the election when it was quietly posted online. Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson told me in 2014 she believed CBS intentionally sat on the material:
BN: Let me turn on that note to another story you tell in the book which has some similar themes and that’s the story about the unaired video clip shot by 60 Minutes. And here again you have an unaired interview with the President shot on-the-record and because of a current news story it becomes relevant and important. But in the case of 60 Minutes, for some reason, that tape remained buried.
SA: That’s right.
BN: That video was shot the same day as the speech in the Rose Garden, the day after the attack. Did you know about that clip at the time?
SA: I did not know about it at the time and wouldn’t have because I wasn’t covering Benghazi. As I began covering Benghazi I wasn’t made aware of the interview, which is not terribly unusual. But once it became relevant, this is primarily after the Romney-Obama debate in which that issue was raised, I still was not made aware of it. And in fact, not long after that debate I and another correspondent were fed a different clip from the same interview, just a piece of it, and directed by New York to use this other piece of the clip. We were directed what words to say leading into it to give the clear impression that President Obama was correct that he had called it an act of terror. Only later did I discover that was contrary to the content of the interview they had kept hidden.
BN: And that’s really the question. Do you believe that they did keep it hidden intentionally?
SA: I do believe some of them kept it hidden intentionally.
BN: In the book it seemed to me you were suggesting Scott Pelley and the people around him at CBS Evening News were involved in that.
SA: That’s right.
BN: And in particular there was one producer there who was known to be fairly left-wing.
SA: That’s right. You know there have been right and left wing producers and managers over time but the difference was this was a producer who people believed let her ideology bleed over into her news decisions. Everybody’s got opinions, the point is you try not to let them bleed over into your news decisions but she was having an issue with that.
BN: Do you know when they knew about that clip and what was decided there?
SA: I can’t tell you when they knew but I can tell you that the clip was emailed to her and to Scott Pelley and to others in the fishbowl shortly after the interview happened on September 12th.
BN: It sort of strains credulity that, after the 2nd debate when that was the big moment, no one who had seen that clip realized how important it had become.
SA: What really got me was, when I finally saw the transcript, it was just a short exchange about what had happened the night before in Benghazi and they skipped over the relevant clip that directly answered the question to feed us the out-of-context clip and make it sound like it was something else. That means even when they pulled that interview out and looked at the transcript, they would have had to have seen, re-read and skip over the true clip to instead feed us a clip out-of-context.
BN: So is there any doubt in your mind that this was an intentional decision?
SA: In my opinion, no. There’s no doubt.
BN: You pressured CBS News to release this, once you found out about it.
SA: That’s right.
BN: At what points does CBS News President David Rhodes come into this?
SA: Those of us who thought this needed to be rectified, he’s one of the ones we approached and worked with to help make sure that was published prior to the election.
BN: And there’s a great quote where he admits that they messed up.
SA: That’s right. Nobody claimed otherwise. Nobody argued it was unintentional. Nobody argued it wasn’t really bad. Nobody said this was overreaction. Everybody said to all of us that they agreed it was a big, big screw up and that we had fix it.
Here’s the edited version of the Charlie Rose interview with Bill Clinton: