Whoa, If True: Hillary Clinton Blows Off Autograph-Seeking Voter
This is another installment of "Whoa, If True," an occasional look at the wild and false tales that make it into the mainstream of presidential campaign news.
On May 22, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton paid a visit to New Hampshire's Smuttynose Brewery, and worked a line of voters outside. The visit made almost no news, apart from a second-day story about angry Republicans threatening to chug Really Old Brown Dog and Finestkind IPA no more.
On June 1, the conservative opposition research shop America Rising tweeted a Vine of Clinton interacting with a voter outside Smuttynose. Its clicky summary: "Watch what happens when a @HillaryClinton supporter asks her to sign something." Anyone who watched the Vine saw Clinton tell a woman to "go to the end of the line" when asked for a signature.
Cue: Virality. The Weekly Standard posted the Vine, under the headline "Hillary to Supporter: 'Go to the End of the Line." The Daily Caller posted the Vine as proof of "Queen Hillary" being impatient with voters: "Every once in a while, Her Majesty must put the rabble back where they belong." Conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham told Fox News viewers that Clinton would never tell "influence peddlers" to "go to the back of the line" as she had this voter. According to Breitbart News reporter Charlie Spiering, the video's placement on the Drudge Report (headline: "She snaps at adoring voter") got it 4 million loops. America Rising's Colin Reed later bragged to a Salon writer that it was up to 5 million.
There were two small problems with the story.
One: The voter was not told to go to "the back" of the line, as if she'd cut ahead. She was told to go to the end of the procession, to where Clinton was pausing to sign notes, photographs, and books.
Two: Once the voter found the end of the line, she got the signature she asked for.
The video, graciously provided to reporters by America Rising, is 17 minutes long. At 8:59, Clinton emerges from the brewery and offers a "Hey, guys!" to the waiting crowd. For two minutes, she moves down the line, shaking hands, and trading extremely light banter. ("You just graduated from Penn State? My father and my brother went to Penn State.") At roughly 11:11, the Vine moment occurs.
After the "line" exchange, Clinton reassures the voter that she'll give here a signature. "Yeah, we will," she says. "Definitely, yes. See these guys over here? They'll take good care of you."
She was referring to sunglasses-wearing handlers, who... proceeded to help her out, at the proverbial end of the line. At 12:16, the video clearly shows the woman who asked Clinton for a signature and a photo—a woman with a black-and-white striped shirt and grey hair tied back -- getting a signature, then taking a photo.
Every news outlet that reported on Hillary snubbing the voter got it wrong—and could have easily gotten it right. The story never passed a basic B.S. test. Why would a tracker, with a perfect view of Clinton and the crowd, drop the story after the voter was told to relocate? Why would he not go up to the voter and ask how she felt about the snub? (She'd hardly have been the first person swarmed by media after an awkward candidate moment.) The answer was hinted at in the Vine itself, as a close listen revealed Clinton's handlers promising to "take care" of the voter. To make Clinton look rude, the video had to cut around the awkward fact that the voter got what she came for.
"If you look at the whole video," Fox News commentator Greg Gutfeld said on Tuesday, "she was saying, 'Oh I'm shaking these hands, if you meet me over on the other side, you could sign it.' She wasn't being rude at all."
By the time Gutfeld said that, the bogosity of the "snub" was becoming better known, and the story was already evolving into criticism of Clinton's tone. "You think she said it in a nice way?" a shocked Kimberly Guilfoyle asked Gutfeld.
"I don't think it was that bad," said Dana Perino, who as a veteran of George W. Bush's administration actually knew how voter ropelines worked.
The "Clinton seemed rude" theory of the case didn't even mesh with America Rising's original spin. As the Vine burned up Twitter, Colin Reed told Business Insider that Clinton had blown off a regular American. "Maybe these New Hampshire voters would have better luck getting Secretary Clinton’s attention if they wrote a six-figure check to the Clinton Foundation or were a highly-vetted political activist at one of her staged campaign events," he said.
Asked by Bloomberg if he stood by that statement, Reed said that "the vine (and its 7 million views so far) speaks for itself."