In Context: Russ Feingold saying Hillary Clinton is trustworthy

Republican incumbent Ron Johnson (left), in his bid to win re-election to the U.S. Senate, has criticized Democrat Russ Feingold's praise of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Republican incumbent Ron Johnson (left), in his bid to win re-election to the U.S. Senate, has criticized Democrat Russ Feingold's praise of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In his effort to win re-election on Nov. 8, 2016, Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson has tried to tie his challenger, Democrat Russ Feingold, to Hillary Clinton.

We’ve rated Mostly False a Wisconsin Republican Party claim that, among other things, cites questions about emails Feingold sent while he worked for the State Department. The claim likened those questions, mainly raised by Republicans, to the continuing investigation of Clinton’s emails when she was secretary of state.

Johnson made the email comparison again in a digital ad called "Trustworthy" that was released Oct. 28, 2016. And he punctuated it with a video clip of Feingold saying of the Democratic presidential nominee:

"I have found her to be reasonable and trustworthy."

The audio of those words is then repeated twice as the ad ends.

In polls, even as Clinton is favored to win the election, a significant proportion of Americans say she is not honest and trustworthy, or say she is less honest and trustworthy than Republican nominee Donald Trump.

And Johnson’s ad is one of a number of instances where Feingold has been criticized for calling Clinton trustworthy.

So, this seemed like a time for In Context, our periodic feature that fleshes out sound bites, to give fuller context to Feingold’s remarks.

We’ll start by noting that on Aug. 29, 2016, Feingold made a similar remark about Clinton after a campaign appearance in Madison, calling her "reliable and trustworthy."

The video clip used in Johnson’s ad, however, comes from Feingold’s Oct. 6, 2016 interview with staff at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The following exchange between Feingold and investigative columnist Daniel Bice shows how the subject of Clinton’s trustworthiness was raised and how Feingold responded.

Rather than answer general questions about her trustworthiness, Feingold described his experience with her.

Bice: You called her trustworthy, right?

Feingold: I was asked what I thought about that and my answer was, in all my experiences with her -- as first lady, as a senator and as secretary of state -- I have found her to be reasonable and trustworthy in those experiences. And, so, that’s my experience.

Bice: OK, so in general, do you consider her trustworthy?

Feingold: All I can say is those are my experiences, and --

Bice: Why don’t the voters? I mean, there’s a gap there when voters are asked --

Feingold: I have had no experience where she has been untrustworthy with me. And that is very important to me. I feel I can work with her. I feel I can trust her.