Update: Line on running from runway not in prepared speech, Clinton camp says
Hillary Clinton's chief spokesman tried to brush off her tall tale about ducking from sniper fire as she landed at a fortified air base in Bosnia just after a peace accord was signed there, saying the former first lady simply "misspoke" about the 1996 trip.
Rival Democrat Barack Obama's campaign quickly scoffed at the attempt to dismiss the fib, noting that the mistaken wording was included in the text of Clinton's speech.
“Senator Clinton said that a planned welcoming ceremony was cancelled because they needed to avoid sniper fire, but news footage shows that she was met by a small child who read her a poem. Contrary to the latest spin from the Clinton campaign, when you make a false claim that's in your prepared remarks, it's not misspeaking, it's misleading, and it's part of a troubling pattern of Senator Clinton inflating her foreign policy experience,” Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an e-mail.
Update: Clinton camp text was 'as delivered,' not prepared
Responding to a question about the Obama campaigns statement Tuesday, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said Vietor was "mistaken" in his characterization of the speech.
"Those were not prepared remarks," Singer said. "Those remarks on the Web site were as delivered."
Clinton's speech at George Washington University last Monday focused on Iraq, but it's gained most notice for her re-telling of visiting troops in Bosnia.
"I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base," she said.
The Fact Checker on washingtonpost.com awarded Clinton four Pinocchios and called it "simply not credible," after reviewing contemporaneous news accounts and speaking to others who were along on the trip.
It's not clear whether the description was written prior to Clinton's speech, or if the remarks posted online are a transcript of her delivered remarks. A RAW STORY e-mail to the Clinton campaign seeking clarification was ignored until Singer addressed the question during Tuesday's call.
During an earlier conference call, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson swatted down questions about the former Clinton's inaccurate portrayal of the trip with further contemporary news accounts describing the dangerous situation and noting she was the first First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to visit troops in a war zone. He shared descriptions of her trip visiting "burnt out villages" and skirting "mine fields," and he said Clinton's runway reception was cut short due to security concerns.
"I don't think there is any question ... that she was taking an opportunity to visit troops in a potentially dangerous area," Wolfson said. "There's no dispute about that."
Getting to what was disputed -- namely that Clinton and crew didn't have to sprint from their plane with bullets whizzing by -- Wolfson said, "It is possible in the most recent instance that she discussed this that she misspoke." He accused the Obama camp of making hay out of the issue out of desperation.
During her trip to Bosnia in March 1996, Clinton was accompanied by the singer Sheryl Crow and comedian Sinbad, who was the first to cast doubt on her portrayal of the trip.
"I never felt that I was in a dangerous position," Sinbad told the Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers. "I never felt being in a sense of peril, or 'Oh, God, I hope I'm going to be OK when I get out of this helicopter or when I get out of his tank.'"
Clinton dismissed Sinbad's account because "he's a comedian," but the issue has continued to percolate. Tales of her harrowing landing date back to last December, before anyone voted in any primaries or caucuses. She told an audience in Iowa that her plane had to make a corkscrew landing to avoid being shot (the tactical landing has not been questioned, and her campaign says there were reports of snipers in nearby hills).
"Somebody said there might be sniper fire," she said, adding tartly, "I don't remember anyone offering me tea on the tarmac."
Video reports confirm that Clinton wasn't served tea after exiting the plane, but she was greeted by an 8-year-old girl who read a poem praising the peace process.