From the Fact Check Desk: Former President Bill Clinton’s Defense of His Wife’s Bosnia Sniper-Fire Story

By MichaelJames

Apr 10, 2008 9:35pm

Former President Bill Clinton offered this bit of revisionist history of his wife’s Bosnia story in Jasper, Ind., today, one riddled with a veritable sniper fire of errors — ones necessitating footnotes.

Watch the former President’s misstatement-riddled explanation for his wife HERE.

"She took a terrible beating in the press for a few days," he said, per ABC News’ Sarah Amos, "because she was exhausted at 11 o’clock at night (1) and she started talking about Bosnia and she misstated the circumstances under which she landed in Bosnia. (2)

"Did you all see all that? And oh, they acted like she was practically Mata Hari," he said — referring to the Dutch exotic dancer accused by the French of spying for the Germans and executed by a firing squad during World War I — "like she was making up all this stuff.

"And then the president of Bosnia said, ‘Well, it was quite dangerous when she came, there were snipers in the hills all around,’ (3) And then Gen. Wes Clarke, who was there trying to make the peace among the Bosnians, said ‘Yeah, it was dangerous, let me remind you three of the Americans who were on my peace-keeping team were killed because they had to take a dangerous road ’cause they couldn’t go the regular way.’

"And she had to go up into the cockpit with our daughter, in a bullet-proof area, and all the other people had to sit on their bullet-proof flak jackets (4) because it was dangerous.  So she immediately (5) said ‘OK, I misremembered that, they didn’t cancel the welcoming ceremony, but it was pretty dangerous.’ "

In Boonville, Ind., also today, he told a different version, saying his wife, "one time late at night (1) when she was exhausted, she misstated and immediately (5) apologized (6) for it, what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995. (7) Did y’all see all that? Oh, they blew it up. Let me just tell you.

"The president of Bosnia and Gen. Wesley Clark — who was there making peace where we’d lost three peacekeepers who had to ride on a dangerous mountain road because it was too dangerous to go the regular, safe way — both defended her because they pointed out that when her plane landed in Bosnia, she had to go up to the bulletproof part of the plane, in the front. Everybody else had to put their flak jackets underneath the seat (4) in case they got shot at. And everywhere they went they were covered by Apache helicopters.

"So they just abbreviated the arrival ceremony. Now I say that because what really has mattered is that even then she was interested in our troops. And I think she was the first First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to go into a combat zone. (8) And you woulda thought, you know, that she’d robbed a bank the way they carried on about this."

(1) Her most glaringly wrong telling of the tale, on March 17, 2008, was in the morning.
(2) She actually told versions of the story several times. (And none was at night.)
(3) In an e-mail to journalist Eric Jansson, former acting Bosnian president Ejup Ganic said "we didn’t expect snipers," though, "we still believed that some positions on the hills were occupied by radical Serbs, so I was worried about the overall safety."
(4) Not according to the pilot Colonel William "Goose" Changose (Ret.), who said, "nobody under my watch has ever directed anyone to sit on their flak jackets. … We do not direct people to sit on their flak jackets."
(5) It wasn’t immediate at all — it was 11 days later, first in an editorial board meeting with the Philadelphia Inquirer/Philadelphia Daily News, then later in a press availability.
(6) She never apologized.
(7) It was 1996, not 1995.
(8) He qualified it with "I think," but then-first lady Pat Nixon went to a combat zone in Saigon, Vietnam, in July 1969.

- jpt

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