Accuracy in Media

Remember last week when Hillary Clinton said Tulsi Gabbard was being groomed by the Russians to become a third-party candidate and thus assure President Trump’s re-election?

And remember how Clinton didn’t exactly use Gabbard’s name but said merely she believes the Russians have “got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” and when Gabbard took offense, Clinton’s spokesperson said, “If the nesting doll fits,” a reference to a Russian toy?

Now the same spokesperson who authored the ‘nesting doll’ quote is claiming Clinton did not suggest Gabbard was being groomed by Russia to tilt the presidential race in favor of Republicans, but by operatives of the GOP itself.  She was misunderstood, Nick Merrill said in a series of tweets.

“On Friday, the NYT did a piece about a podcast Secretary Clinton did with David Plouffe [a former Obama staffer]. They incorrectly quoted her saying that the ‘Russians’ were ‘grooming’ a candidate running in the Democratic primary,” Merrill wrote. “They rightfully fixed it to reflect that she was talking about the GOP.”

He displayed a screenshot of the top of “Tulsi Gabbard Lashes Back at Hillary Clinton After Claim of Russian Influence,” by Maggie Astor. The first version reads: “Hillary Clinton waded into the Democratic primary on Friday by suggesting that Russia was backing Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and that Russians were ‘grooming’ her as a third-party candidate.’”

He then showed a later version which stated the “Republicans were ‘grooming’ her as a third-party candidate.”

Another Merrill tweet read: “In yesterday’s paper, @superwuster wrote an opinion piece accusing Secretary Clinton of trading in conspiracy theories, based off of comments that she didn’t make.”

The twitter handle mentioned belongs to Tim Wu, an op-ed contributor to the New York Times, who wrote a piece entitled, “Why Hillary Clinton Shouldn’t Trade in Conspiracy Theories About Tulsi Gabbard; — subhead: “The problem is not just paranoia. It’s also that she questioned a candidate’s motives rather than the soundness of her views.”

Wu wrote that Clinton’s assertions were “backed only by innuendo,” but that it “was not hard to wonder at least for a moment whether to take her seriously” because “no one can honestly doubt that the Russian government is trying to foster chaos and disunity in the United States” and “certainly … has preferred presidential candidates.”

Merrill later tweeted: ”I too am tired of talking about this, but let’s again set the record straight. HRC speculated that the only way the GOP is going to win in states where Trump can’t hit a 50% majority is to 1) Suppress the vote, as they do widely and routinely, &2) Bank on the 3rd party spoiler. And yes, she said that certain fringe members of the Democratic and Green parties are assets to the Russians. Well guess what folks? That’s true. She didn’t call anyone a spy, as some are wrongly asserting for their own political gain.”

He then posted articles suggesting Gabbard had been “discovered” by “Russia’s propaganda machine.”

In the relevant part of the interview with Plouffe, Clinton discusses the 2020 election. “I’m not making any predictions,” she says. “But I think they’ve got their eye on someone who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s a favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. And that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not since she’s also a Russian asset.”

Merrill’s argument would have stood better if he hadn’t added the “nesting doll” quote.

“The same spokesperson who served up the sinister ‘If the nesting doll fits’ quote, Nick Merrill, is the one saying the press incorrectly accused Clinton of ‘trading in conspiracy theories,’” wrote Matt Taibbi, the Rolling Stone reporter.

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