Hillary Clinton flatly denied that her campaign was attacking Barack Obama for using the words of another politician, telling reporters on Tuesday that her campaign had not made the charge. The Chicago Tribune reported her remarks from an interview with KITV in Honolulu on Tuesday:
"Look, it's not us making this charge. It's the media. You know, the media is finally examining my opponent which I think is important because we're trying to pick a president, someone for the toughest job in the world [...] So, I think the media is going to be putting forth whatever facts and information it has for voters to assess on their own."
Obama Campaign spokseman Bill Burton shot back on Tuesday evening. "Senator Clinton knows full well that her campaign held a conference call with reporters to fan these flames and the fact that she suggested her campaign had nothing to do with it is exactly the kind of evasive tactic voters are rejecting," he said in a statement.
Clinton's claim is demonstrably false. Her campaign has aggressively and openly pushed the plagiarism attack, including a national conference call by senior campaign aides on Monday. Her aides also circulated a YouTube clip comparing footage of Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick.
Initially, Clinton operatives apparently did attempt to conceal their involvement. The first New York Times article about the clip reported:
The similarities from a passage of Mr. Obama's speech on Saturday and in remarks that Mr. Patrick delivered on Oct. 15, 2006, were highlighted by a rival campaign that did not want to be identified. Clips of both speeches are archived on the Web site YouTube.com.
Yet by Monday morning, Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson and Rep. Jim McGovern openly made the plagiarism attack on the conference call, while the campaign openly distributed the YouTube clip without requesting to only be identified as a "rival campaign." The story has now dominated campaign coverage for two days, so Hillary Clinton is obviously aware that her campaign is making the charge.
The Clinton campaign's attack on Obama's use of the line "just words" was widely panned as a baseless and desperate ploy. Her cover-up might go over even worse.
Update 2: The AP reports that Clinton's claim is "disingenuous":
Clinton Fingerprints on Plagiarism Flap
Hillary Rodham Clinton says reporters, not her campaign, uncovered evidence of Democratic rival Barack Obama sharing speech lines with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
She made the claim Tuesday despite the fact her campaign posted video clips on YouTube illustrating similarities in the speeches and has suggested in several instances that the shared lines amount to plagiarism.
THE SPIN: "It's not us making this charge, it's the media," Clinton told Honolulu television station KITV Tuesday. "The media is finally examining my opponent which I think is important. We're trying to pick a president, someone for the toughest job in the world."
She added: "I think the media is going to be putting forth whatever facts and information it has for voters to assess on their own."
In an interview with another Honolulu station, KGMB, Clinton noted that Obama and Patrick share a strategist, David Axelrod, "who is apparently putting words in both of their mouths."
She added: "I think that's a serious concern."
FACT CHECK: Any suggestion that the story had a life of its own, apart from the Clinton campaign, is disingenuous....
(First) Update: The Politico reports on Clinton's false assertion, though the article avoids directly labeling it false:
Clinton, in remarks to the ABC affiliate in Honolulu that were reported by the Chicago Tribune, asserted: "Look, it's not us making this charge. It's the media."
But on Monday, the Clinton campaign announced a conference call "to discuss a recent speech delivered by Sen. Obama" and included a YouTube link that showed Obama remarks side by side with similar comments by his friend, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
On the call, Howard Wolfson, the campaign's communications director, said: "When an author plagiarizes from another author there is damage done to two different parties. One is to the person he plagiarized from. The other is to the reader."