Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has an honesty and trustworthiness problem. Exit polls continue to show voters see her as dishonest. Even voters who vote for her think she is less honest and trustworthy than Bernie Sanders, her opponent in the Democratic primary race.
Part of why she is viewed as dishonest is because her campaign routinely pushes rumors and disingenuous attacks into the establishment media. These rumors and attacks have been pushed by a group of individuals, like Brad Woodhouse, the president of Correct the Record, Zac Petkanas, the director of rapid response for the campaign, Brian Fallon, the press secretary for her campaign, Robby Mook, a campaign spokesperson, and John Podesta, the chairman of her campaign.
The campaign has an account on Twitter called “The Briefing,” which claims to push out the “facts” about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Plus, there is Correct the Record, a super PAC setup by Clinton operative David Brock, which continues to push smears against Sanders (sometimes through “off the record” tips, which they do not want to be traced back to their group).
(*Note: Brock is best known for his “scurrilous hatchet jobs on Anita Hill—whom he famously derided as ‘a bit nutty and a bit slutty’—and Bill Clinton, whose extramarital dalliances (facilitated, Brock claimed, by Arkansas state troopers on the governor’s security detail) were the subject of a 11,000-word exposé rife with seamy details that he never bothered to verify, part of the so-called ‘Arkansas Project’ to delegitimize the Clinton presidency, generously funded by right-wing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife.” How a feminist candidate for president could align herself with a person like this remains unclear.)
A previous compilation from February highlighted how the Clinton campaign misrepresented Sanders’ role in the civil rights movement, accused him of attacking President Barack Obama for being “weak,” claimed Sanders’ plan for single-payer healthcare would “dismantle Obamacare” to scare voters, suggested the Sanders campaign planned to commit voter fraud in Iowa, allowed “Bernie Bros” to spread “vicious lies and sexism,” and sided with right-wing Republicans against immigration reform.
Even as Clinton holds a sizable pledged delegate lead over Sanders, there are 27 primaries and caucuses left in the United States, as of March 19. The Democratic Party establishment, which backs Clinton has wanted him out of the race for quite some time now, but he continues to raise millions of dollars from millions of Americans and he remains competitive in polls. So, the effort to vilify and isolate Sanders so his campaign completely implodes keeps escalating.
Here are some of the most dishonest attacks and rumors deployed in recent weeks:
Bernie Sanders Supports Minutemen Vigilantes
When Hillary Clinton first deployed this attack during a debate in Miami on March 9, David Axelrod, who worked as chief strategist for both of Obama’s presidential campaigns, reacted, “Hard to sell the idea that Senator Sanders hangs with vigilantes and Minutemen.” Yet, that’s exactly what the campaign continues to do to make Sanders vile to Latino voters.
In an attack ad released on March 18, Correct the Record informs Hispanic voters the “Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Minutemen as a nativist ‘hate group.'” Then, it adds, “There are 17 similar groups in Arizona alone,” insinuating Sanders probably supports those hate groups too.
The same ad shows Sanders denying that he supports the Minutemen before text appears, which states, “Bernie Sanders said he didn’t support an amendment to protect the militia known as the Minutemen.” But, according to POLITICO, he did support an amendment that “protected” the Minutemen. He voted for an amendment proposed by “Minutemen-friendly Republicans.”
But Sanders never denied that he voted for the amendment. He denies supporting Minutemen vigilantes, who patrolled the border in the 2000s with the intent to shoot any immigrants seen crossing the border.
While supporting the amendment is impossible to defend, the amendment did nothing. As PolitiFact notes, then-Representative Martin Olav Sabo, a Democrat from Minnesota, declared, “If people want to put it in the bill, I guess that is okay because it apparently does nothing.” Seventy-six Democrats voted for the symbolic—and until now—insignificant amendment.
There simply is no evidence that Sanders supports or has ever supported right-wing militias, which hate immigrants.
Bernie Sanders’ Wife, Jane Sanders, Palled Around With Sheriff Joe Arpaio
While Sanders was in North Carolina, Missouri, and Illinois for campaign rallies, his wife, Jane Sanders, went to Maricopa County’s infamous Tent City jail to see how immigrants are abused. Yet, what grabbed headlines was the fact that Sheriff Joe Arpaio came down to give Jane a tour and, as one local publication put it, “parade in front of TV cameras.”
Clinton surrogate, Representative Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois, suggested, “When Jane Sanders visited Joe Arpaio’s inhumane detention center, the Sanders campaign had a chance to tell Arpaio to his face that he was wrong and that he needed to resign — as many of us have said for years. Instead, they heard him out, thanked him for his ‘hospitality’ and, contrary to their claims, made their criticisms through a press release and a series of tweets.”
It is unclear how Gutierrez knows what Jane did or did not say or how the campaign cozied up with Arpaio or did not cozy up with Arpaio.
Contrary to Gutierrez’s attack, which is dependent on rumors of what happened, the Phoenix New Times reported that Jane challenged Arpaio during the meeting. She called attention to how the inmates are inhumanely kept in tents out in the sun. It can reach 130 degrees in the summertime. Arpaio replied, “It’s 135 degrees in Iraq,” to justify the treatment.
Jane even “grilled” Arpaio on a notorious “papers please” law called SB1070, which “made it a crime to violate federal immigration laws and empowered local police to check immigration at traffic stops.” She accused Arpaio of supporting “racial profiling.”
This was during the meeting. After the meeting, the campaign blasted Arpaio at a rally in northern Arizona. “It’s easy for bullies like Sherriff Arpaio to pick on people who have no power,” Sanders said. “If I am elected president—the president of the United States does have power. So watch out, Joe.”
Bernie Sanders Supports the Indefinite Detention of Immigrants
Another attack intended to make Sanders unappealing to Latino voters involves a lie that Sanders supports the indefinite detention of immigrants.
Liberal Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Sherrod Brown, a surrogate for the clinton campaign in Ohio, voted for the same bill that Clinton has criticized Sanders for supporting.
The vote in the House in 2006 may be indefensible today, especially because the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Council of La Raza opposed the legislation. It permitted “indefinite detention of specified dangerous aliens under orders of removal who cannot be removed, subject to review every six months.” It allowed for “aliens” to be detained, “without limitations, until the alien is subject to an administratively final order of removal,” according to the ACLU.
Sanders believed he was voting for a bill that addressed the issue of “gang members who committed serious crimes” and should be deported. The bill died in the Senate and never passed.
Last December, when immigrant rights advocates called on him to support hunger strikers indefinitely detained in immigration detention facilities, who were asylum seekers resisting deportation, he listened and supported asylum for hunger strikers. Clinton, on the other hand, refused to address the issue.
Clinton also supported sending children fleeing violence back to Central American countries like Honduras in order to “send a message” to families that they should not let their children come to the United States. This was outrageous to the vast majority of legal groups, who recognized almost all of the children qualified for humanitarian relief.
There is a significant case for why Clinton does not deserve the Latino vote. Deploying scurrilous attacks against Sanders insulates Clinton from any critical assessment of her record on immigration issues.
Bernie Sanders Voted Against Bailing Out Auto Workers
She first deployed the attack in Michigan. According to Clinton, in January 2009, “A new piece of legislation was offered that contained the money that would be used for the auto rescue.” Sanders voted against the bill. But the truth is this bill referred to by Clinton was a second round of bailout money for Wall Street.
David Axelrod, who worked as chief strategist for both of President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, previously said, “It is a real stretch to say voting no on TARP [money] was vote against auto bailout.” Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, who have endorsed Clinton, took issue with her portrayal of the bailout vote. Both voted against the bailout, like Sanders, because they believed they were voting against more funds for Wall Street.
Sanders voted for the standalone legislation most citizens know of as the auto bailout.
As former Senator Byron Dorgan told the International Business Times, “In the Senate, you vote on a lot of things, and it’s very hard to take one piece and say alright here’s the narrative when there are often a number of different votes—and sometimes a vote on something drags with it a lot of other issues that you might or might not support. It’s really hard to take any particular vote and say OK this is it if there were other votes relating to the same issue in a different form.”
And yet, that is exactly what Clinton and her super PACs have done to spread disinformation, which works against Sanders.
Bernie Sanders Voted to Deregulate the Markets in 2000
The Clinton campaign has pushed the idea that Sanders voted to deregulate the markets in 2000, when he voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, in order to undercut his message on breaking up big banks and holding Wall Street accountable.
“You’re the only one on this stage that voted to deregulate the financial market in 2000,” Clinton said, during a debate in January.
The Commodity Futures Modernization Act was supported and signed into law by Clinton’s husband, President Bill Clinton. She has frequently cited his record while campaigning, but she refuses to address the more unpopular parts of the Clinton administration’s legacy, like deregulating Wall Street.
According to columnist Robert Scheer, “Clinton signed this bill into law as a lame-duck president, ensuring his wife would have massive Wall Street contributions for her Senate run.”
“Sanders, like the rest of Congress, was blackmailed into voting for the bill because it was tucked into omnibus legislation needed to keep the government operating. Only libertarian Ron Paul and three other House members had the guts to cast a nay vote.”
In other words, his vote for this piece of legislation shows Sanders can be a pragmatist, like when following ideology might result in a government shutdown. That runs counter to much of the Clinton campaign’s chief criticisms of Sanders.
Sanders, as Scheer points out, recognized he was “tricked into providing a blank check for the marketing of bogus collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps made legal by the legislation, of which a key author was Gary Gensler, the former Goldman Sachs partner recruited by Clinton to be undersecretary of the treasury.”
President Barack Obama nominated Gensler to run the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 2009, and Sanders attempted to block the nomination:
[Gensler] worked with Sen. Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan to exempt credit default swaps from regulation, which led to the collapse of A.I.G. and has resulted in the largest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history. He supported Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which allowed banks like Citigroup to become “too big to fail.” He worked to deregulate electronic energy trading, which led to the downfall of Enron and the spike in energy prices. At this moment in our history, we need an independent leader who will help create a new culture in the financial marketplace and move us away from the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior which has caused so much harm to our economy.
Gensler is now a top economic adviser for Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Bernie Sanders Promised a “Positive Campaign” Without Attacks
Not wanting Sanders to be able to educate voters on her record as a secretary of state, as a senator, and as a first lady, who helped Bill Clinton push legislation through Congress, the Clinton campaign established the perception very early in the election that Sanders promised a “positive campaign.”
Sanders may have promised to run a “positive campaign,” but he never pledged to be passive when relentlessly attacked by opponents running against him for the nomination. He never committed to not highlighting how he is different from Clinton.
In fact, when the Clinton campaign accused the Sanders campaign of running a “negative” ad, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow told Hillary Clinton, “I’ve seen the ad that you’re referring to. Honestly, it is not much of an attack.”
“It says there’s two Democratic visions for regulating Wall Street…It’s not something over the top that means that he’s now this personal attacker in the campaign,” Maddow explained.
Clinton never made any such pledge to run a “positive campaign” without attack ads. Since September, she has used a network of surrogates and rapid response super PACs to push their anti-Sanders talking points into the media. The media has obliged by constantly revisiting this notion that Sanders is now a negative campaign solely focused on slinging mud at Clinton.
Bernie Sanders Is a “Single-Issue Candidate”
This is one of the more ridiculous attacks levied against Sanders, but it depends on Sanders’ fierce advocacy against Wall Street and wealth inequality.
“Bernie Sanders continues to attack Wall Street as if it is the silver bullet to fixing all of America’s woes,” a release from Correct the Record declared. “But his approach does an enormous disservice to those communities affected by other substantial and pressing issues. His failure to see beyond Wall Street is his failure to adequately represent the country he is hoping to lead.”
Correct the Record managed to get numerous establishment media outlets to cover this idea that Sanders cares so much about Wall Street, and it affects his ability to address other significant issues facing Americans.
In February, Clinton took this attack to a whole other level, saying at a campaign event, “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow, would that end racism? Would that end sexism?”
It is absurd to think that Sanders’ attention to wealth inequality is his way of addressing structural racism in the United States. Plus, Sanders has a racial justice platform. It was developed far before the Clinton campaign ever rolled out their platform on racial justice on their website.
But let’s not pretend like Wall Street and financial deregulation has not had a hugely disproportionate impact on black and Latino Americans. The displacement of black and Latino households during the foreclosure crisis was particularly staggering. “Banks and brokers targeted African-American neighborhoods when mining” for subprime mortgage loans, according to journalist Kai Bird.
Bernie Sanders Ran As a Democrat For “Media Attention”
“In terms of media coverage, you have to run within the Democratic Party,” Sanders said while being interviewed by Chuck Todd on MSNBC. He said Todd would not have him on his program if he ran as an independent. He also made the point that he had to be a billionaire to run an independent presidential campaign.
Woodhouse, president of Correct the Record, railed on Twitter, “If Bernie Sanders had real principles he would have run as an independent. He railed against the [Democratic] Party when it helped him in [Vermont].” He added that Sanders then decided to run as a Democrat because it would help him in a “national race.” He is “just a typical [politician] looking out for himself.”
The Democratic Party, Woodhouse claimed, welcomes anyone “who wants to affiliate with it because they share its philosophy.” Sanders “joined for the media coverage only.”
The fact is, this is not what Sanders was saying. Oddly, Brazile recognized the point behind Sanders’ comment, even though she also blasted him. She noted, “Third party candidates and independents are often ignored by the [mainstream media]. Thus, they run as Democrats or Republicans to gain traction and expansion.”
In spite of the truth, the Clinton campaign recognized an opportunity to take advantage of tribalism among voters and insist once more that Sanders is not one of them. They also know this makes it possible to falsely insinuate and spread innuendo about how Sanders sides with Republicans and cannot be trusted to defend liberal or left of center policies.
Bernie Sanders Is An Unelectable Presidential Candidate
The most pernicious dishonest attack of the campaign is the one the Clinton campaign has needed to keep their candidate from slipping in the polls. It is the attack that Sanders is an unelectable candidate, who could not beat a Republican presidential nominee in the general election.
The campaign explicitly argues Sanders would never be able to beat Donald Trump. The establishment media, for the most part, willingly goes along with this narrative provided to them by the Clinton campaign.
Early in September, Clinton and her network of surrogates and super PACs planted this argument that he was not electable. There never has been empirical evidence to support this perception.
Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine wrote in December, “The first post-Thanksgiving national poll, from Quinnipiac, provides some counterevidence to the Bernie-can’t-win assumption. It shows him actually leading every named Republican candidate in general-election trial heats by margins equal to or greater than Clinton’s (his leads over Carson and Cruz are literally twice as large as HRC’s). Sanders also has the best favorability ratio — +13 — among all registered voters of any candidate in either party.”
Fast forward to the past month, Sanders consistently outperforms Clinton in a matchup against Trump.
In February, a CNN/ORC poll found Sanders beats Trump by 12 percentage points while Clinton only beats Trump by six percentage points. A Fox News poll found Sanders beats Trump by 15 percentage points while Clinton beats Trump by only five percentage points. A Quinnipiac poll showed Sanders beats Trump by six percentage points while Clinton beats Trump by only one percentage point.
An NBC/WSJ poll in January showed Sanders beating Trump by 15 percentage points while Clinton only beats Trump by ten percentage points.
The reason why the Clinton campaign has to push this “unelectability” attack is because Clinton has a problem with favorability.
Quinnipiac polls last year found the following:
Colorado voters say 62 – 34 percent that Hillary Clinton is not honest and trustworthy; 52 – 46 percent that she has strong leadership qualities and 57 – 39 percent that she does not care about their needs and problems.
Hillary Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, Iowa voters say 59 – 33 percent. She is a strong leader, voters say 52 – 43 percent, but she does not care about their needs and problems, voters say 55 – 39 percent.
Hillary Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, Virginia voters say 55 – 39 percent. She is a strong leader, voters say 54 – 42 percent, but she does not care about their needs and problems, voters say 50 – 45 percent.
Clinton gets a negative 37 – 55 percent favorability rating and voters say 64 – 32 percent she is not honest and trustworthy.
Ohio voters give Clinton a negative 36 – 54 percent favorability rating and say 60 – 34 percent she is not honest and trustworthy.
Pennsylvania voters give Clinton a negative 38 – 55 percent favorability rating and say 63 – 32 percent she is not honest and trustworthy.
So, if anyone has an electability problem, it is Hillary Clinton, who will have to deal with the millions of Americans who find her dishonest and untrustworthy in the general election, if she wins the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.