Bill Clinton Fires Back at Vanity Fair Probe
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Former president Bill Clinton's office yesterday sharply attacked an article on the former president in this month's Vanity Fair magazine, calling it "a tawdry, anonymous quote-filled attack piece" and "journalism of personal destruction at its worst" in a long-memo that detailed its faults.
The article, written by former New York Times White House correspondent Todd Purdum, included former advisers slamming Clinton for bringing negative attention to his wife's candidacy and surrounding himself with friends who former aides thought could tarnish the ex-president's reputation. Many of these former aides, most of whom were not quoted by name, also attacked Doug Band, Clinton's right-hand man since he left office, for not managing Clinton's carefully.
While Hillary Clinton's campaign did not provide a direct response to the piece, her aides are known to coordinate closely with her husband's office, which released the memo. The 2400-word rebuttal not only slammed Purdum for his use of unnamed sources in much of the piece, but detailed the work of Clinton's nonprofit foundation on HIV/AIDS prevention and other issues, calling the Clinton Foundation "a leading global nongovernmental organization."
Excerpts from the Clinton memo follow:
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Office of President Clinton
RE: Vanity Fair Article on President Clinton
DATE: June 1, 2008
A tawdry, anonymous quote-filled attack piece, published in this month's Vanity Fair magazine regarding former President Bill Clinton repeats many past attacks on him, ignores much prior positive coverage, includes numerous errors, and ultimately breaks no new ground. It is, in short, journalism of personal destruction at its worst.
Any balanced account of President Clinton's post-presidency - which other publications have referred to as one of "a great philanthropist;" the face of "the power of philanthropy" and "a major force in fighting the pandemic [HIV/AIDS]" - would recognize that the lion's share of his work is his multi-million dollar charitable foundation, which works in almost 50 countries around the world. [The Economist, 9/23/06; Fortune Magazine, 9/7/06; The Wall Street Journal, 1/14/04] Vanity Fair, however, has chosen to publish thousands of words on former President Clinton, but to devote only a single paragraph to his enormous charitable accomplishments.
The piece also takes gratuitous and baseless shots at President Clinton's longtime Counselor, Doug Band, a key architect of the post-presidency, in sections that are rife with mistakes and which, in particularly galling taste, go as far as to criticize Band's wife, who started, and is the CEO of a multi-million dollar global company. The article even criticizes his wedding. The critiques of Band are baseless, and President Clinton has credited Band with being the originator of CGI and has noted that "I couldn't have done half of what I have done in my post-presidency without him."
The author, Todd Purdum, acknowledges speaking to over 50 people (almost all of them anonymous Washington insiders) before contacting President Clinton's office about his piece. Though he researched the piece for several months, his first contact with President Clinton's office was several weeks before he closed the story. Most revealing is one simple fact: President Clinton has helped save the lives of more than 1,300,000 people in his post-presidency, and Vanity Fair couldn't find time to talk to even one of them for comment....
This piece was written by Todd Purdum, who is married to Dee Dee Myers, former White House Press Secretary. Purdum's disclosure of this in the piece does not, as Vanity Fair apparently concluded, remove the obvious conflict of interest. It's a conflict that would likely not be contemplated at more reputable publications, especially considering that, as a result of this relationship, at least one source's anonymity was revealed to others.
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