A closer look at an anti-Hillary Clinton meme
A meme now circulating on social media makes a concise case against Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. But is it accurate?
The meme is headlined "I’m not ready for Hillary" -- a takeoff on the PAC that supported Clinton during the months leading up to her official announcement. It goes on to list five reasons voters should oppose the former Secretary of State in her presidential bid.
Here we’ll look at the claims one by one.
1. "She took money from foreign governments trying to buy influence."
The Clinton Foundation -- which she was not affiliated with during her tenure as secretary of state -- did accept money from foreign governments. Some would argue that the donors’ motivations were to gain favor with a former president and his wife, at the time the secretary of state. But the meme is wrong to suggest that she personally took money from foreign governments while secretary of state. The foundation did, not Clinton.
Some claims have been phrased more accurately than the one in this anti-Clinton meme. For example, a web ad by American Crossroads, a group founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, said that the Clintons' foundation "took millions from foreign governments" including "up to $5 million" from the United Arab Emirates and "up to $25 million" from Saudi Arabia.
Over the years, the Clinton Foundation has taken millions of dollars -- legally -- from foreign governments. This included between $1 million and $5 million from the United Arab Emirates and between $10 million and $25 million from Saudi Arabia. At least a portion of those donations came in 2014, after Clinton left the State Department and formally joined the family’s foundation that had previously been in her husband’s name alone. So we rated the web ad’s statement True.
2. "She refuses to testify before Congress about what really happened at Benghazi where four Americans died."
This claim makes no sense, since Clinton has already testified twice, in public and on live television, about the Benghazi attack.
Moreover, we found no evidence that Clinton has been opposed to testifying before the House panel that’s still studying the incident, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. What has kept her from testifying so far are disagreements over scheduling and format -- not over whether she would testify or not. Any past disagreements about the scope of her testimony appear to have been resolved. So we rated the claim False.
3. "She put our national security at risk ‘for convenience.’ "
We aren’t able to fact-check this claim because it’s vague, it’s largely an opinion and there’s no widely agreed-upon definition of "for convenience."
4. "She used a second personal email and lied about its existence."
This claim is exaggerated.
As is now widely known, Clinton chose to forgo a government email account while serving as secretary of state, opting instead to use her own private email on a private server. While she was secretary, Clinton used the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. After leaving the department, she changed her email address to email@example.com.
But the meme’s claim goes well beyond this widely corroborated fact.
In May, Republicans and conservative media outlets said the hrod17 email, which she supposedly adopted in 2013, appeared on emails from 2011 and 2012. They said this contradicted a claim from Clinton’s lawyer, who wrote in a March letter to Gowdy that "firstname.lastname@example.org is not an address that existed during Secretary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state." That would be the "lie" by Clinton referred to in the meme.
But Clinton’s lawyers and her campaign said this apparent oddity is easily explained. They have said that hrod17 and hdr22 are the same account -- just different email addresses. So when they logged into the account to retrieve the old emails per a State Department request, the new email address, hrod17, appeared as the sender instead of hdr22.
Indeed, looking at a handful of Clinton’s emails from the State Department collection, hrod17 appears as the sender at the top of the emails, while hdr22 appears in the email in places where the text is stable (for example, in a thread of back-and-forth emails).
Our friends at FactCheck.org did a deep dive into into this question -- mimicking the scenario in their own system, and having email experts review Clinton’s emails on their behalf. They concluded that Clinton’s explanation is logical and reasonable, meaning the email records do not contradict her lawyer’s claim that she only had one email address as secretary of state.
5. "Her $2 billion ‘charitable’ foundation only gives about 10 percent to charity."
This claim starts with actual data but takes it out of context.
Earlier this year, we checked a claim by radio host Rush Limbaugh that "85 percent of every dollar donated to the Clinton Foundation ended up either with the Clintons or with their staff to pay for travel, salaries, and benefits. Fifteen cents of every dollar actually went to some charitable beneficiary."
We found a grain of truth -- namely, that about 85 percent of the foundation’s spending was for items other than charitable grants to other organizations, and a large chunk of this 85 percent did go to Clinton Foundation staff for travel, salaries and benefits. However, the foundation explained that it does most of its charitable work in-house rather than cutting checks for outside groups to carry it out, as other foundations do.
We rated Limbaugh’s claim Mostly False.