On Wednesday, Fox News became the first news network to pick up on the contradiction between claims made by Senator Hillary Clinton about her 1996 trip to Bosnia and the reality reported by journalists at the time. In a speech on Monday, Clinton asserted that “I remember landing under sniper fire. 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.”
But no news outlet mentioned sniper fire at the time, and TV news footage from the day of Clinton’s visit, which was first posted Tuesday on NewsBusters, shows Clinton and her daughter walking around without helmets, greeting various people including the acting President of Bosnia and a Bosnian child who read a little speech for the then-First Lady.
On FNC's March 19 Special Report, anchor Brit Hume picked up on the NewsBusters item and credited the Media Research Center: “And the controversy continues over whether Hillary Clinton, as she said again this week, had to duck sniper fire while arriving in Bosnia back in 1996. The comedian Sinbad, who was with her, has ridiculed the idea, but the Clinton camp has said he was just being funny. Now, though, the Media Research Center has scanned the coverage at the time by reporters who were on the trip, and found no mention of any shooting. The CBS report even showed her arriving in Bosnia smiling and walking alongside daughter Chelsea. Senator Clinton had claimed there was no greeting ceremony and, quote, ‘we just ran with our heads down.’ But the network pictures showed her being greeted by the acting President of Bosnia and a group of Bosnian children."
So far, only a few in the mainstream media have reported on the discrepancy. The Associated Press on Monday put out a detailed comparison of what they termed “The Spin” being provided by Mrs. Clinton and her campaign, compared with “The Facts” as ascertained by the Associated Press. After noting the claim of sniper fire Clinton made in her speech, the AP related how she stuck by her version afterwards:
Questioned about it later at a news conference, Clinton said she was moved into the cockpit of the C-17 cargo plane as they were flying into Tuzla Air Base, Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Everyone else was told to sit on their bulletproof vests," she said. "And we came in, in an evasive maneuver. ... There was no greeting ceremony, and we basically were told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened."
She gave a somewhat different account in her book, "Living History."
In it, she said there were reports of fire but does not mention hearing or seeing it on her way to Tuzla.
"Due to reports of snipers in the hills around the airstrip, we were forced to cut short an event on the tarmac with local children, though we did have time to meet them and their teachers and to learn how hard they had worked during the war to continue classes in any safe spot they could find," she wrote.
Under the heading of “The Facts, ” the March 17 dispatch pointed out:
An AP story at the time reported: "Security was tight — fighter jets accompanied her C-17 cargo plane to Tuzla — but officials said the first lady took no extraordinary risks on the trip." There was no mention of sniper fire....
AP reported that on the plane into Bosnia from Germany: "Mrs. Clinton chatted with journalists and crewmen during the 90-minute flight, wandering around the spacious plane in a black pantsuit — a contrast to the blue jeans and other road-ready clothes worn by most everybody else on the plane.
"The first lady spent quite a bit of time in the cockpit, with pilot Cheryl Beineke, one of just four female C-17 pilots in the U.S. Air Force."
As for the rest of the media, ABC’s Jake Tapper briefly blogged about the issue in his “Political Punch” blog, as did the New York Daily News’s Mark McAuliff and the Wall Street Journal’s Amy Chozick, who noted how Clinton stuck by her story when pressed: “There was no greeting ceremony and we were basically told to run to our cars. Now that is what happened.” (The Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers wrote about Sinbad's pooh-poohing of the dangers in Bosnia before Clinton's speech on Monday.)
Yesterday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal’s Susan Davis measured Mrs. Clinton’s claims against just-released logs of her activities as First Lady:
According to the first lady’s personal schedule detailing the trip, just two of the more than 11,000 official pages of personal schedules released today, this is what the day looked like:
Clinton landed at Tuzla Air Base at 8:45 a.m. on March 25, 1996. She was greeted by Bosnian officials and a seven-year-old Bosnian girl whose name was redacted, and a 7th grade class. The girl read Clinton a poem. Clinton and her aides had a 10-minute meeting with acting Bosnia President Ejup Ganic and his aides. There was an hour-long “notables roundtable” moderated by then-Ambassador John Menzies followed by a 30-minute closed-door meeting with the heads of unnamed non-governmental organizations, and a 30-minute closed door meeting with military officials.
The first lady also toured Camp Alicia, ate lunch with the troops, toured Camp Bedrock, attended the USO show where the aforementioned Sinbad and musician Sheryl Crow (misspelled “Crowe” in the schedule) performed, followed by an hour visit at the general’s house before it was wheel’s up at 5:45 p.m. and Clinton was on her way to Italy. The schedule doesn’t indicate Sinbad was with Clinton at any of the meetings or events outside of the USO performance. There is no mention of security threats.
Unless there's something I'm missing, Mrs. Clinton appears to have been caught in a fib. Now, will the rest of the media attempt to hold her accountable, or will she go on regaling campaign audiences with tales of her bravery under fire in Bosnia?