“Hillary Clinton wants to talk with you about love & kindness,” the headline blares.
Over the next 6,214 words, BuzzFeed Politics’ Ruby Cramer paints a portrait of a Hillary Clinton who is warm, relatable, idealistic, and misunderstood. Page-width photos, black and white with emoji-punctuated captions, present her as thoughtful, concerned with “openness” and “personal connection.” The end game for her presidential campaign, Cramer writes, is encouraging Americans to strive for “love and kindess”–a phrase that appears 13 times in the piece–placing Clinton’s intentions in stark contrast to “an election dominated by the language of anger and fear.”
In the article’s third paragraph, we see some of the context spurring Clinton toward this narrative. She’s campaigning in New Hampshire, where her rival Bernie Sanders is up by double digits two weeks ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary. And questions about her husband‘s alleged sexual assaults are now popping up at her campaign events.
Cramer glowingly recounts Clinton “getting a question from the audience about the women who’ve alleged they were sexually assaulted by her husband and answering it without hesitation or alarm.” Without a quote of the actual exchange, it’s not exactly an evaluation the reader can make for himself.
And Clinton hasn’t always been composed while facing this issue: “You are very rude and I’m not going to ever call on you,” she chastised Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien, a rape survivor who shouted a question about Juanita Broaddrick, an alleged rape victim of Bill Clinton.
Bill’s alleged victims speak out
The Clinton campaign, already dogged by questions of corruption and criminal mishandling of classified material, is now struggling with renewed scrutiny of how she treated women who threatened her power by accusing Bill of sexual misconduct. Ever since Republican frontrunner Donald Trump called Hillary a hypocrite on women’s issues, the accounts of Bill’s alleged victims have taken on new life in the press’s 2016 coverage.
Several women caught up in Bill’s sex scandals have described Hillary as ruthless and intimidating, rather than loving and kind.
Juanita Broaddrick wrote in an open letter to Hillary about their face-to-face encounter in 1978:
As soon as you entered the room, you came directly to me and grabbed my hand. Do you remember how you thanked me, saying “we want to thank you for everything that you do for Bill.” At that point, I was pretty shaken and started to walk off. Remember how you kept a tight grip on my hand and drew closer to me? You repeated your statement, but this time with a coldness and look that I have seen many times on television in the last eight years. You said, “Everything you do for Bill”. You then released your grip and I said nothing and left the gathering.
What did you mean, Hillary? Were you referring to my keeping quiet about the assault I had suffered at the hands of your husband only two weeks before? Were you warning me to continue to keep quiet? We both know the answer to that question.
Broaddrick said in an interview with Breitbart Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein that she “almost died” when Clinton cut a campaign ad declaring all women must be believed if they accuse men of sexual assault.
“Shame on you, Hillary, that’s disgusting,” Broaddrick said of Clinton’s overtures on women’s issues.
Kathleen Willey said in an interview, also with Aaron Klein: “This woman wrote the book on terrorizing women.”
Her tactics and the things that she set in motion against all the women like me, the ones you have heard of and the ones you haven’t heard of, and the ones who are so scared that they fled the country, are terrorist tactics like I’ve never seen before.
I went through them. I lived through them. And I know exactly what I am talking about. She is the war on women. I don’t care what anybody says.
Willey’s story, once she went public with sexual assault allegations, is one of the more troubling episodes in Hillary’s history with women. According to Roger Stone & Robert Morrow, authors of The Clintons’ War on Women, “Hillary reportedly used nasty private detectives to run a terror campaign” against Willey. She recounted some examples to Aaron Klein just weeks ago:
I came home and found a beautiful, one-year old healthy cat dead on the deck of my house, and the only way to get to my deck of my house is through my house. It has no access to the yard.
I mean, I found a man in the middle of the night at the door of my walkout basement. I opened my car door, my tires were all slashed. Somebody found the car, found me, and flattened three tires with a nail gun.
Paula Jones said of Hillary in an interview with Klein:
[S]he allowed her husband to abuse women, to harass women, possibly other things that he did wrong to women. And she allowed it to happen. As a matter of fact, she would go out and she would try to discredit these women, including me.
And called us the “bimbo eruption.” You know, these “bimbos.” Okay. For what her husband did to us. But she didn’t believe us. None of us women.
While “bimbo eruption” was a term coined by Clinton surrogate Betsey Wright and has not been publicly uttered by Hillary herself, documents from Diane Blair, a longtime confidant, quoted Hillary calling Monica Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon.” In public, Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal said Bill had called Lewinksy a “stalker” and depicted her as a “sexually demanding young woman” at the time of Clinton’s impeachment scandal.
‘I want more kindness’
Cramer fondly narrates the birth of Clinton’s “love and kindness” talking point in her stump speeches, emphasizing that Hillary sees it as a central pillar of her campaign:
It wasn’t something she planned. Just an ad lib.
This was the day in June after nine people were gunned down, mid-prayer, inside their church in South Carolina. Clinton had even been there that day, in Charleston, and received the news of the shooting on the plane ride out. She was speaking at a conference on the West Coast, and that’s where it slipped out for the first time. “I know it’s not usual for somebody running for president to say what we need more of in this country is love and kindness,” she said. “But that’s exactly what we need more of.”
A few weeks later, standing on a sweep of green in Hanover, New Hampshire, Clinton took it further. “I want this campaign, and eventually my administration,” she said, “to be more about inspiring young people, and older ones as well, to find that niche where kindness matters, whether it’s to a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, a fellow student — whether it’s in the classroom, or a doctor’s office, or in a business — we need to do more to help each other.
“That’s what my campaign is about,” she said. “I want more kindness.” [emphasis original]
Yet if BuzzFeed had asked (or was allowed to ask) any parties outside of Team Clinton, “kindness” would likely be the last word used to describe Hillary’s temperament.
The Clintons’ relationship with the media has long been described as “adversarial,” their approach to bad press “intimidation.”
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post said the Clintons have a “dark and, frankly, paranoid view” of national media–after the revelation that a Clinton Global Initiative staffer escorted a New York Times reporter into a bathroom and waited outside her stall.
Evan Thomas at Newsweek wrote in 2008: “Clinton campaign officials have not hesitated to go over the heads of reporters and complain to their editors; the reporters regard this, not unreasonably, as an intimidation tactic.”
Daniel Halper of The Weekly Standard said that, when he tried to promote an anti-Clinton book, “A producer with CNN said I’d never be able to get any airtime on her show because the Clintons punish networks that give space to their perceived enemies.”
Clinton’s failure to lead on “kindness” isn’t limited to the media, either. “The Briefing,” an official Hillary campaign apparatus, has attacked Senator Sanders and other public figures with catty sniping. “Congrats to the Youtube commenter who wrote your remarks,” it snarked at Sarah Palin after her endorsement of Donald Trump. In the past week, Briefing staffers have repeatedly made passive-aggressive swipes at Bernie Sanders.
— The Briefing (@TheBriefing2016) January 25, 2016
Cramer mentions Sanders in just one paragraph, saying his campaign sees economics “economics as the principal foundation to politics” and he has “captured the anger” of progressives–in contrast to Clinton’s emphasis on personal kindness. BuzzFeed and the Sanders campaign did not respond to requests for comment on whether Sanders had a chance to contribute to the article or challenge this characterization.