Rumors vs Facts on Hillary Clinton’s Email

Today I’d like to re-work an old saying: “A rumor travels around the globe while facts are putting on their shoes.” That’s what I think about when I watch this whole story about Hillary Clinton’s emails while she was Secretary of State.

As you know by now, the rumors have been flying, fueled in large part by shoddy reporting at the New York Times – of all places. Then on Wednesday, there was an important development in the story. By Thursday, the only media reporting about it was the Washington Times. Then on Friday, Buzzfeed had an article about it.

In a little noticed brief, filed on Wednesday to a federal court, Department of Justice lawyers outlined a comprehensive defense of the contentious decision by Hillary Clinton to wipe the private email server she used as secretary of state: The attorneys assert that, regardless of whether she used a personal or government account, Clinton was within her legal right to handpick the emails that qualified as federal records — and to delete the ones she deemed personal.

“There is no question that former Secretary Clinton had authority to delete personal emails without agency supervision — she appropriately could have done so even if she were working on a government server,” write the Justice Department attorneys, representing the State Department in the brief. The lawyers add that under policies issued by the State Department and by NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration, government employees “are permitted and expected to exercise judgment to determine what constitutes a federal record.”

By Friday night, major news outlets like the Associated Press had the story and then (finally!) the New York Times ran with it (they were clearly not the “paper of record” on this one).

I am not one that buys into conspiracy theories about how news outlets have political biases (other than Fox News, of course). But it has been fascinating to watch some of them jump at the first rumor of wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton and then be so slow to provide facts that exonerate her. It’s not so clear that another old saying – “better late than never” – gives them much cover.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .