The presidential election is around the corner, and the candidates are neck and neck in the polls. As many Americans struggle with whom they want to support, it’s hard to know what’s even true anymore. So here’s a helpful guide to the top 10 myths you may have heard about Hillary Clinton, to help you make your decision when November 8 comes.
1. Hillary Clinton shared state secrets through her private email server.
In short, no, this isn’t true. But it is complicated.
One thing that sucks about being secretary of state (or president, for that matter) is that your job literally runs 24/7. Of course, you can’t be in the office around the clock. So every secretary of state since the smartphone became accessible has had one. Colin Powell had one. Condoleezza Rice had one. And they all used them to keep doing their job after the office was closed for the day. And all of them used unsecured servers, because all of them took their Blackberries home, in order to answer emails with state department employees and dignitaries abroad in different time zones.
What made Hillary Clinton’s different from her predecessors was that she knew it was insecure. In fact, she asked the NSA to give her a secure server, just to be on the safe side. And the NSA said no. They weren’t set up for things like that, and they didn’t want to take the time, so they told her it would be fine. Hillary Clinton wasn’t so sure, though. In a time when information hacks of the U.S. government by China, Russia, and other potential threats were becoming increasingly present threats, Hillary Clinton decided not to use the State Department server and decided instead to use the server the Secret Service set up for her husband after he left the White House. This is a secure server, it’s just not the same secure server. And while the State Department was hacked, Hillary’s private server wasn’t. So what the question boiled down to is “Was Hillary Clinton committing a crime?”
After millions and millions of our tax dollars were spent trying to answer this question, the answer was no. She didn’t commit a crime. But it was improper to unilaterally decide to use her own server when no other government agency signed off on it.
2. Hillary Clinton uses the Clinton Foundation to launder money for herself.
A lot of the allegations about the Clinton Foundation “scandal” come from a man named Peter Schweizer, who wrote a book called Clinton Cash in which he makes all kinds of claims about the Foundation. Mr. Schweizer was a senior editor for Breitbart News, the alt-right news site run by Donald Trump’s campaign CEO.
What’s amazing about these claims is how demonstrably false they are. The Clinton Foundation gets better ratings from non-profit watchdogs than the Red Cross, including ratings for being transparent — that’s for showing exactly where their money comes from and where it goes. People have accused the Clinton Foundation of wrongdoing because only 6% of their money goes to grants, but the Clinton Foundation isn’t in the business of funding grants. What they actually do is provide AIDS medication to rural African communities, combat climate change, and provide relief to areas affected by natural disasters.
We know Hillary Clinton isn’t gaining anything monetarily from the foundation, because she and Bill have released 30 years of their tax returns, showing the majority of their $3 million income comes from speaking engagements and book sales.
3. People could “buy” appointments with Secretary Clinton by donating to the Clinton Foundation.
Not really. But again, this is a little more complicated.
Many people wrote to Secretary Clinton, asking to get personal appointments with her, after making large donations to the Clinton Foundation. Most of them didn’t get what they wanted, but a few did.
However, those few who did were already likely to get a meeting with the State Department anyway. Foreign heads of state, members of royal families, these are people who the State Department regularly deals with. They made large donations to the Clinton Foundation, and some of them did see Clinton afterwords. But as she received none of the money from these donations, the argument that it in some way curried favor with Secretary Clinton is dubious. In reality, they made large donations to a cause they knew she supported in hope of increasing her interest in meeting with them, and in some cases, that may have worked. But even in those cases, it was not illegal.
4. Hillary Clinton approved a Russian uranium deal because of Clinton Foundation donations.
Another of the bizarre claims in Schweizer’s Clinton Cash is that one of the alleged pay-for-play schemes run through the Clinton Foundation was that Hillary Clinton approved a uranium deal with the Russians after a massive donation.
Everything about this claim has been found to be false. So false that Schweizer had to publicly admit there was no truth to them.
Even if it were possible that Hillary Clinton had somehow gained financially from the deal, which she didn’t, nine other government agencies had to approve it — meaning the responsibility would have been far from hers alone.
And even further, none of the people Schweizer accused of donating to the Clinton Foundation worked for the company which the U.S. government arranged the uranium deal with.
5. Hillary Clinton is responsible for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi.
As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was not responsible for the deaths of anyone, American or otherwise, in Benghazi.
Yes, she was in charge of the State Department when the decision was made to reopen the embassy in Benghazi, but she did everything right. The reason people died in Benghazi is that sometimes terrorists succeed in killing people. In fact, fewer Americans were killed in embassy attacks than during either Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell’s tenures as secretary of state. During their administrations, there were 39 attacks on American embassies and consulate properties, resulting in 87 deaths.
Everyone who goes to work abroad for the State Department knows these risks, and Secretary Clinton demonstrated her understanding of the dangerous roles she asked her employees to fill, which resulted in one of the safest State Department administrations in decades.
6. Hillary Clinton is a conservative.
As senator for New York, Hillary Clinton was rated the 11th most liberal senator in the United States. While she did vote initially for the invasion of Iraq, she soon saw how she and other members of Congress had been misled by the Bush administration, and by 2007, she was one of the Senate’s most outspoken opponents of the war.
But well before her Senate career, she was known as a progressive. She spent her early career fighting against racism in education, working to eradicate poverty, and impeaching Richard Nixon. Then, as the first First Lady with a postgraduate degree, she led the fight for universal healthcare. After her healthcare plan failed, she managed to salvage part of the program as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which still insures millions of American children today.
7. Hillary Clinton is owned by Wall Street.
While it is true that Hillary Clinton was paid by Wall Street banks to deliver some speeches, it is untrue that they have exerted any influence over her, politically or otherwise.
In fact, as a senator she voted in favor of tougher Wall Street regulations. Even Bernie Sanders, who built much of his support on the claim that Clinton was in the pocket of big banks, was unable to find any evidence whatsoever of this claim.
Regardless of whatever might have been said in those speeches, her platform is one of the most aggressive and progressive plans to curb Wall Street corruption by any candidate, ever.
The majority of her campaign donations come from individuals who work for, or used to work for prior to retirement, the four largest employers in the state she represented in the Senate (New York), and those four largest employers happen to be Wall Street banks.
8. Hillary Clinton is not a feminist.
Not even close.
During her early career, she worked to integrate segregated schools, to ensure equal access to all people, for the children of all mothers. As First Lady, she addressed the UN, asserting that, “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights, once and for all.” This was a statement against the crimes sanctioned by countries against women and girls worldwide, of all colors, creeds, and ethnicities.
She made it easier for women to sue against wage discrimination. She has the best rating on reproductive rights of any presidential candidate, ever. And she has promised to ensure that, if elected, 50% of her cabinet would be female — reflecting the content of our country rather than the content of our history.
9. Hillary Clinton is dishonest.
Not even close to true.
For the last 18 months, news watch-dog groups have been fact checking everything the candidates say, in written statements, on their websites, in debates, in speeches, and in political ads. What they’ve found is that of all the people who ran for a major party’s nomination this election cycle, Hillary Clinton was the most honest — more honest than Bernie Sanders, more honest than John Kasich, more honest than everybody.
The question of Hillary’s dishonesty actually comes down to a different issue — the sort of honesty we expect from “politicians” versus the type of honesty we expect from “women.” While we accept a politician boiling down a complex issue into a soundbite, when Hillary does it, she is often lambasted. Because Hillary speaks in complex statements, referring to the slow progress of governance instead of the speed of desired political change, it’s often seen as double-speak instead of metered realism. And people trust calculated caution in a woman’s speech less than they trust an overt lie from somebody like Donald Trump, whose supporters have said they don’t expect him to build a wall, despite it being his signature campaign promise.
10. Hillary Clinton defended a rapist and laughed about it.
One of the most untrue, horrible, despicable lies people still like to believe about Secretary Clinton is that she freed a child rapist, and laughed about it.
The truth is that when she was fresh out of law school, Hillary Clinton was a public defender. A judge ordered her to defend a man who raped a child, and Hillary Clinton tried to turn down the case. However, the judge told her he would not recuse her from the case, and she accepted that her job as a public defender included defending a man who was clearly guilty of this heinous crime. Rather than quit, she accepted that the Constitution declares that every person is entitled to a defense, and she did her job. In the end, she convinced him to plead guilty — ensuring that, unlike 97% of rapists, he did go to jail.
As for the laughter, during an interview some 40 years later, she laughed about how naive she had been to believe that technologies like a lie detector test would prove her client’s guilt. He passed the lie detector test, although Clinton knew he was guilty, and a much older Clinton laughed at the idea she could have once believed justice was as simple as putting an obviously guilty man behind bars. It had taken a great deal of work to convince him to plead guilty rather than going to trial, and she was proud of her work, as horrible as the job had been. The case went on to become a precedent for shield laws, which protect rape victims at the trials of their assailants.
These myths reinforce the fact that Hillary Clinton is subjected to a double standard — one that we women are all too familiar with. In her 40-some years of public service, she has faced unprecedented scrutiny, and the result is that while her opponents have accused her of everything from money laundering to murder, nothing has ever been true. Her opponents claim, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” before lobbing a smoke bomb in her direction.
When looking for the source of that smoke, make sure to look at Donald Trump, a human dumpster fire if ever there was one, surrounded by the very people who have made unfounded accusations against Mrs. Clinton since the 1980s without facts to back up their claims.
Most importantly, vote based on facts, not feelings. Feelings change. Facts don’t.