Friday, August 5, 2016


On Friday, Hillary Clinton took questions from the press for the first time in 260 days. A number of her answers revealed why she doesn’t hold press conferences more: Her answers to both difficult and easy questions were often evasive, excessively legalistic, and frustrating to watch.

Clinton spoke at a joint convention being held by the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Her previous press conference was December of last year and she has faced heavy criticism from both the media and the Trump campaign for not being more accessible.

In Friday’s press questioning, the trouble began when she was asked her first question about her private email server and recent statements about that server which independent fact checkers have labeled as categorically untrue. Clinton’s responses here—and her previous responses to questions about the truthfulness of past statements—are so overly legalistic and convoluted that they are difficult to even explain. But here’s a shot.

Last month, Fox News’ Chris Wallace asserted to Clinton that FBI Director James Comey said her public statements about which documents on her private email server were classified and which were not were untrue. In actuality, Comey declined to address the truthfulness or lack of truthfulness of those statements in Congressional testimony on the matter. 

But in announcing his investigation into her server—which cleared Clinton of any wrongdoing—Comey implied that she had either misled the American public about her poor handling of material she should have known was classified information, or been incompetent in doing so. “Even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it,” he said. Clinton had previously claimed: “I am confident that I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time. I had not sent classified material nor received anything marked classified.”

In response to Wallace’s question claiming that Comey had said she was not telling the truth, Clinton said this: “Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails.”

This is the claim that fact checkers have destroyed. Clinton’s defenders might claim that she was talking about two separate things in two separate clauses in this sentence: That Comey said her answers to the FBI were truthful and separately that her answers to the FBI were consistent with her public statements. This would have made the statement incredibly misleading, though, given that she was asked directly about what Comey's views. 

Also making that answer seem disingenuous at best, and a lie at worst, is that she repeated a similar version of it in an interview earlier this week, telling a local CBS affiliate: “It was all personal stuff [that was deleted on the email server], and we’ve said that consistently. And as the FBI said, everything that I’ve said publicly has been consistent and truthful with what I’ve told them.” It’s really hard to argue that this is two separate points, with the “and as the FBI said” part referring to the earlier point, but I guess a really eager Clinton apologist could make that claim.

All of this leads us to the press conference, where Clinton was asked this:

Are you mischaracterizing Director Comey's testimony and is this not undercutting your efforts to rebuild trust with the American people?

Clinton’s answer, which you can watch here, is an awkward journey of disassembling and lawyerly quibbling:

SEE VIDEO; Hillary gave a rare press conference. It was terrible.