Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton may not have come under fire when she landed at Tuzla Air Base back in 1996, but today's morning news shows put the candidate squarely in their sights for her misleading recollections of the event.
There have been questions about the veracity of Clinton's accounting of her trip to Bosnia for some time, but the matter has only reached a full-on inflammation in recent days. The critical ingredients of the burn were the release of Clinton's schedules while she was First Lady of the United States - which got reporters sifting through pages in search of grist for a story - and Clinton's own retelling of the story in a public appearance on Saint Patrick's Day. The Washington Post's thorough "fact-check" of the trip (and their subsequent "four Pinocchios" rating) drove the story. And while it was still percolating by the time Sunday morning came, by the end of the day, video (and video parody) of the event were YouTubing their way across the internet. Since then, CBS has pulled video from their own archives, and Anderson Cooper led with the flap, and Clinton's "I misspoke" defense on last night's AC360.
Today's morning show pile-on was the next step in the gestation of the story.
THE TODAY SHOW:
MATT LAUER: I still remember winning a Little League championship singlehandedly when I was ten, probably didn't happen. But this isn't the little league. This is someone running for President. There were reporters on the trip and she's using her experience as a deciding factor. How could this happen?
CHUCK TODD: It's worse than that, Matt. there have been reporters questioning her story on this a few weeks ago. One even reached out to the comedian Sinbad, who was also on this trip to get his recollection of it and it differed the First Lady. So somebody didn't scrub that speech. It was in prepared remarks last week. Not only did she say it with certitude, but it was in her prepared text. So this was a real sort of bone-headed mistake on the campaign's part at a time when everybody is looking at everything so carefully.
LAUER: And does it make people go back and start to question everything she said?
TODD: Right. She's been talking about her role in the Irish Peace process, she's been talking about her role in children's health care. So I think all of this is going to invite some renewed scrutiny on some of her claims of experience. And it's at a time when she wants the focus to be on Barack Obama and questions about him.
THE EARLY SHOW:
HARRY SMITH: This is so interesting because her campaign comes down and says this is a misstatement. Is this Pinocchio syndrome, an exaggeration, or a misstatement of fact?
JEFF GREENFIELD: Funny you mention that because The Washington Post which does fact checks based on how many Pinocchios a statement is worth gave this one four. And the reason really, it's the contrast between the vividness of her memory and the damning nature of the videotape. If she had said I visited the Balkans and I met with our troops, she did. Fine. No problem. But it's the nature -- it's like a fish story where the fish grows every time you tell the story. And in this case, she's so clear and vivid about what she remembers compared to the reality that it frankly reminds me of the old Groucho Marx line, who are you going to believe, me or your lyin' eyes? It's an embarrassment. We want to be careful about exaggerating this. she doesn't have to withdraw from the race because of it, it's just something she didn't need right now.
James Carville provided defense for Clinton on today's GOOD MORNING AMERICA:
DIANE SAWYER: How does somebody misspeak about sniper fire and ducking for cover?
JAMES CARVILLE: Well, first of all, it happens in campaigns. I remember that Senator McCain had an embarrassing thing in Baghdad where he said it how safe it was and circumstances were not exactly like that. You never like that to happen but they're not unusual in politics.
SAWYER: You're stopping there. I'm alway surprised when you stop.
CARVILLE: Did you want me to continue?
Whether the media will continue to ride this story through till Sunday is anyone's guess. Chances are good, however, that it will - the CBS's of the world didn't have the time to rummage through their video archive while primary contests were coming hot and heavy, but with a month to go before the Pennsylvania primary, this incident - like Obama's pastorate controversy - can swell to a sizable proportion. The fact is, Jeffrey Toobin probably unwittingly got close to the truth last night on CNN when he told Anderson Cooper: "And I think the reason we're looking at stories like this is that what we would really like to talk about are differences on the issues between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but they're just not there." Or they're not looking for them.