If Bill Clinton’s political camp was known for believing the right wing was out to get him, then this undated memo from his administration codified his team’s suspicions.
The memo was released today in the latest, thousands-of-pages-long batch of Clinton White House documents to be posted online by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum. The National Archives have been releasing tranches of Clinton documents, previously withheld under the Presidential Records Act, every two weeks this spring.
Reportedly authored by Chris Lehane, then a young White House aide who would later serve as press secretary for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, the memo — the existence of which was first reported by The Washington Post in 1997 — accuses right-wing think tanks and publications such as The American Spectator of fanning conspiracy theories over the Whitewater land deal and the suicide of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster.
Richard Mellon Scaife, a wealthy conservative and supporter of Newt Gingrich, is the object of many of the accusations.
“The controversy surrounding the death of Vince Foster has been, in large part, the product of a well-financed right-wing conspiracy industry operation. The ‘Wizard of Oz’ figure orchestrating the machinations of the conspiracy industry is a little-known recluse, Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife uses his $800 million inherited Mellon fortune to underwrite the Foster conspiracy industry,” the memo reads.
Scaife gave $2.3 million to The American Spectator to find incriminating stories about Clinton, The Washington Post reported in 1999.
Itself a conspiracy theory — of how conspiracy theories were allegedly peddled — the memo dubs the flow of such theories as the “communication system of conspiracy commerce” and tracks them from conservative think tanks to British tabloids and back to the mainstream press, enshrining this path as “The ‘Blow-Back’ Strategy” and noting how congressional interest legitimized some news stories in the eyes of the mainstream press.