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Duck! Hillary's "Landing Under Sniper Fire"

- March 24, 2016

Twenty Years Ago Today, Hillary Clinton Traveled To Bosnia As First Lady, A Trip She Would Later Embellish By Recounting Her Heroism While "Landing Under Sniper Fire"

TOP TAKEAWAYS

  • It was twenty years ago today when Hillary Clinton traveled to Bosnia as First Lady.
  • While running for President in 2008, and attempting to assert real foreign policy experience as First Lady, Clinton began telling a dramatic story about how she landed "under sniper fire," and that "there was supposed to be some kind of greeting ceremony, but instead we just ran with our heads down."
  • Days later, video emerged showing that she wasn't greeted with sniper fire, but by a group of Bosnian children, a seventh grade class.
  • This follows a decades-long pattern of embellishments, exaggerations, and outright lies about her biography.

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On March 25, 1996, Hillary Clinton As First Lady Landed In Bosnia To Meet With U.S. Soldiers And Local Leaders. "First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton launched her latest venture onto the international stage Sunday with a visit to offer support for families of U.S. troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Today, she travels to Bosnia, where she will meet U.S. soldiers and religious and community leaders in Tuzla and two nearby outposts." (Bill Nichols, "First Lady On Mission Of Support In Bosnia Today To Address Troops," USA Today, 3/25/96)

CLINTON EMBELLISHED THE DANGER OF HER TRIP, CLAIMING SHE LANDED "UNDER SNIPER FIRE" WHEN IN FACT SHE WAS MET BY SMILING CHILDREN HOLDING "BOUQUETS OF SPRING FLOWERS"

When Recounting The Trip As A Presidential Candidate In 2008, Clinton Said "I Remember Landing Under Sniper Fire. There Was Supposed To Be Some Kind Of Greeting Ceremony At The Airport, But Instead We Just Ran With Our Heads Down." CLINTON: "I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base. But it was a moment of great pride for me to visit our troops, not only in our main base as Tuzla, but also at two outposts where they were serving in so many capacities to deactivate and remove landmines, to hunt and seek out those who had not complied with the Dayton Accords and put down their arms, and to build relationships with the people that might lead to a peace for them and their children." (Sen. Hillary Clinton, Remarks At A Campaign Event, Washington, D.C., 3/17/08)

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When Pressed On Her Account Of The Bosnia Trip By Reporters, Clinton Initially Responded: "There Was No Greeting Ceremony, And We Basically Were Told To Run To Our Cars. Now, That Is What Happened." "Immediately after the speech that day, a reporter asked Clinton about remarks from others on the trip who suggested the trip was for photo opportunities rather than foreign policy and she stood by her account of sniper fire. 'There was no greeting ceremony, and we basically were told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened,' she said." (Angie Drobnic Holan, "Video Shows Tarmac Welcome, No Snipers," PolitiFact, 3/25/08)

PolitiFact: "But That's Not What Happened, As Demonstrated By CBS News Video That Shows Clinton Arriving On The Tarmac Under No Visible Duress, And Greeting A Child Who Offers Her A Copy Of A Poem." "During an introduction to a foreign policy speech on Iraq on March 17, 2008, Sen. Hillary Clinton reminisced about her days as first lady and a trip to Tuzla, Bosnia, she made in March 1996. 'I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.' But that's not what happened, as demonstrated by CBS News video that shows Clinton arriving on the tarmac under no visible duress, and greeting a child who offers her a copy of a poem."(Angie Drobnic Holan, "Video Shows Tarmac Welcome, No Snipers," PolitiFact, 3/25/08)

Click To Watch

Clinton Was In Fact "Greeted By A Group Of Bosnian Children In Colorful Native Dress" Who Presented Her With "Bright Bouquets Of Spring Flowers…While The First Lady Patted The Children On The Head." "There of course were no snipers, and as the nervous passengers exited from the rear of the aircraft off an enormous steel ramp that could handle tanks and other tactical vehicles, we were greeted by a group of Bosnian children in colorful native dress. Hope none of them is a sniper, I thought. They presented Mrs. Clinton with bright bouquets of spring flowers that were quickly gathered up by aides while the first lady patted the children on the head." (Christopher R. Hill, Outpost, 2014)

CLINTON OFTEN RE-REMEMBERS HER PAST AS SHE SEES FIT

Clinton Is "Haunted By Memories" Of Experiences That Are "Actually Fictional." "Yet, these are her wilderness months. She received a mere $14 million as a book advance. And she remains haunted by memories of coming 'out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,' a memory in the same category of her undergoing sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996, which is to say sincerely remembered but actually fictional." (Roger Simon, "Hillary Should Stop Dithering," Politico, 12/3/14)

As Clinton Found In 2008, Her Habit Of Embellishing Is "So Damaging" Because She Portrays Herself As A Candidate And Leader With Experience. "What makes Clinton's situation unique - and the Bosnia embellishments so damaging - is the fact that the New York senator has built her candidacy on the illusion of experience. Any attack on her credentials is a potential Achilles heel." (Ron Fournier, "Hillary's Flight Of Fancy," The Associated Press, 3/25/08)

  • Clinton Has "A Pattern Of Embellishment" And "Yes, She Does Exaggerate Her Credentials." "Two others: Is there a pattern of embellishment? And is she held to a higher standard than her rival, Barack Obama? The answers: Yes, she's held to a higher standard and, yes, she does exaggerate her credentials." (Ron Fournier, "Hillary's Flight Of Fancy," The Associated Press, 3/25/08)

Clinton Has Conveniently "Dusted Off" A Claim That She Tried To Join The Marines In 1975

Clinton "Dusted Off" Her Tale That She Tried To Join The Marines In 1975, "An Old Story That Has Previously Been Met With Skepticism." "As the U.S. Marine Corps turns 240 years old this week, Hillary Clinton dusted off an old story that has previously been met with skepticism: When the Yale-educated lawyer moved to Arkansas in 1975, she says she tried to join the Marines." (Jeff Zeleny and Dan Merica, "Hillary Clinton Revives Story Of Trying To Join The Marines," CNN, 11/11/15)

  • Clinton: "'He Looks At Me And Goes, 'Um, How Old Are You'… 'And I Said, 'Well I Am 26, I Will Be 27.' And He Goes, 'Well, That Is Kind Of Old For Us.'" "She laughed Tuesday, the day before Veterans Day, as she recalled being turned away by a recruiter. 'He looks at me and goes, 'Um, how old are you,' Clinton said at an event in New Hampshire. 'And I said, 'Well I am 26, I will be 27.' And he goes, 'Well, that is kind of old for us.' And then he says to me, and this is what gets me, 'Maybe the dogs will take you,' meaning the Army.'" (Jeff Zeleny and Dan Merica, "Hillary Clinton Revives Story Of Trying To Join The Marines," CNN, 11/11/15)

The Washington Post 's Fact Checker: "This Story Doesn't Really Add Up…" "At first glance, this story doesn't really add up, for the reasons that Dowd initially outlined." (Glenn Kessler, "Hillary Clinton's Claim That She Tried To Join The Marines," The Washington Post , 11/12/15)

  • "The Circumstances Are In Question." "But the circumstances are in question. She pitches it as a matter of public service, but her friends suggest it was something different. So at this point Clinton's story is worthy of Two Pinocchios, subject to change if more information becomes available." (Glenn Kessler, "Hillary Clinton's Claim That She Tried To Join The Marines," The Washington Post , 11/12/15)

CNN's Jeff Zeleny: "It Seems So Unusual" That Clinton Would Have Wanted To Join The Marines When She Had Just Moved To Arkansas And Bill Clinton Was About To Become The Attorney General. CNN'S JEFF ZELENY: "So we asked her campaign for just a few more details on this because it seems so unusual that a Yale-educated lawyer who worked on the anti-war campaigns of McCarthy and McGovern, who had just moved to Arkansas, whose husband was about to become the attorney general of the state would decide to want to join the marines. But the campaign said they're not going to add any more comment on to this, so the questions are left to discuss here." (CNN's "New Day," 11/12/15)

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In 1994, The New York Times' Maureen Dowd Pointed Out That The Idea Of Clinton Wanting To Join The Marines In 1975 "Did Not Seem To Fit In" With Her Persona. "And it did not seem to fit in with the First Lady's own persona. After all, Hillary Rodham was an up-and-coming legal star involved with an up-and-coming political star. She had made a celebrated appearance in Life magazine as an anti-establishment commencement speaker at Wellesley College, where, as president of the student government, she had organized teach-ins on her opposition to the Vietnam War." (Maureen Dowd, "Hillary Clinton Says She Once Tried To Be Marine," The New York Times, 6/15/94)

Not Even A Week Into Her Campaign Kickoff, Clinton Has Already Been Caught Telling A Falsehood About Her Family History

This Week In Iowa, Clinton Claimed "All Her Grandparents Had Immigrated To The United States, A Story That Conflicts With Public Census And Other Records Related To Her Maternal And Paternal Grandparents." "Speaking in Iowa Wednesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that all her grandparents had immigrated to the United States, a story that conflicts with public census and other records related to her maternal and paternal grandparents. The story of her grandmother specifically immigrating is one Clinton has told before. Clinton's sole foreign-born grandparent, Hugh Rodham Sr., immigrated as a child." (Andrew Kaczynski, "Hillary Clinton Wrong On Family's Immigration History, Records Show," BuzzFeed, 4/15/15)

  • "Clinton's Sole Foreign-Born Grandparent, Hugh Rodham Sr., Immigrated As A Child." "The story of her grandmother specifically immigrating is one Clinton has told before. Clinton's sole foreign-born grandparent, Hugh Rodham Sr., immigrated as a child." (Andrew Kaczynski, "Hillary Clinton Wrong On Family's Immigration History, Records Show," BuzzFeed, 4/15/15)

PolitiFact Rated Clinton's Comments On Her Grandparents As "False." "Talking about immigration in Iowa, Clinton said, 'All my grandparents, you know, came over here.' It's very clear from the evidence that not all of Hillary Clinton's grandparents were immigrants. In fact, only one was. It's possible she misspoke, but it doesn't make her comment more accurate. We rate her claim False." (Katie Sanders, "In Iowa, Hillary Clinton Claims 'All My Grandparents' Came To The U.S. From Foreign Countries," PolitiFact , 4/16/15)

  • With Her False Claim About Her Grandparents, Clinton's Campaign Has Already Suffered A "Hitch" Similar To Her Embellishments On The 2008 Campaign Trail. "(The rollout was not without a hitch: Mrs. Clinton, who was criticized in the 2008 campaign for claiming, inaccurately, that she had dodged sniper fire in Bosnia, said on the second day of her Iowa visit that all of her grandparents were immigrants. According to a BuzzFeed report, only one of them was - her grandfather Hugh Rodham Sr.)" (Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman, "Hillary Clinton Re-Emerges, By Design (But Also By Surprise)," The New York Times , 4/16/15)

Clinton Embellished Her Story Of The Bin Laden Raid Photo

While Touting Her Latest Memoir, Clinton Attributed The Situation Room Photograph To The Shock Of Watching A U.S. Helicopter Hit The Bin Laden Compound Wall. BBC'S JEREMY VINE: "Perhaps the most memorable image from your time as Secretary of State was you in the Situation Room with your hand over your mouth as you watched, well, we're not sure what you were watching then. We thought at first you were watching seals go into the home of Osama Bin Laden. But it wasn't quite that?" CLINTON: "No. And as I write about in the book, it was a direct video feed on what was going on outside the house. So we saw the helicopters land, we saw our seals get out and take up their positions. We also saw one of the helicopters tails hit the wall as it was attempting to get into the courtyard of the compound, disabling the helicopter. I think that may have been when my hand went over my mouth because my heart was in my throat." (BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine, 7/3/14)

But In 2011, The Story Was That "An Allergy And Not Anguish" Was The Explanation For The Gesture While Watching The Bin Laden Raid. "An allergy and not anguish may explain why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had her hand to her mouth while watching the commando operation to kill Osama bin Laden, she said on Thursday. A photo of Clinton, President Barack Obama and other senior officials watching the operation live from the White House situation room has become one of the most striking images of the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader." ("Hillary Clinton's Allergies, Not Anguish, To Blame For Bin Laden Photo," Reuters, 7/5/11)

  • Clinton, 2011: "I Have No Idea What Any Of Us Were Looking At That Particular Millisecond When The Picture Was Taken." "'Those were 38 of the most intense minutes. I have no idea what any of us were looking at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken,' she said on Thursday when asked about the photo during a visit to Rome. 'I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs. So it may have no great meaning whatsoever,' Clinton added." ("Hillary Clinton's Allergies, Not Anguish, To Blame For Bin Laden Photo," Reuters, 7/5/11)

The New York Times ' Jason Horowitz: "Hillary Clinton Has Apparently Gotten Over Her Allergies." (Jason Horowitz, "Clinton's Cough Was Really A Gasp," The New York Times , 6/20/14)

Clinton Embellished Her Role As First Lady During Northern Ireland's Peace Negotiations

In 2008, Clinton Listed Her Role In Bringing "Peace To Northern Ireland" As A Foreign Policy Credential. CLINTON: "You know, I was involved for 15 years in, you know, foreign policy and security policy. You know, I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland." (CNN's "American Morning," 3/5/08)

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Clinton's Account Of Her Role In Northern Ireland Grew "More Dramatic With Each Retelling" On The 2008 Campaign Trail. "As the Boston Globe recently noted, her stories of bringing Protestant and Catholic women together have become more dramatic with each retelling. The claim that she brought Catholics and Protestants together 'for the first time' seems dubious." (Michael Dobbs, "Clinton And Northern Ireland," The Washington Post's Fact Checker, 12/31/07)

Sen. George Mitchell, Who Led The Negotiations: Clinton Was "Not Involved Directly" In The Conversations That Led To The Peace Agreement. "I just spoke to Senator George Mitchell, the Clinton administration's leading Northern Ireland peace negotiator, who said that Hillary was 'not involved directly' in the diplomatic negotiations that led to the landmark April 1998 Good Friday agreement on power-sharing." (Michael Dobbs, "Clinton And Northern Ireland," The Washington Post's Fact Checker, 12/31/07)

Northern Ireland Leader David Trimble - Who Shared A Nobel Peace Prize For The Settlement - Said Clinton's Claims About Her Role Were A "Wee Bit Silly." "David Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in Northern Ireland who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for the settlement, last week told the Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, that Clinton's claim was 'a wee bit silly.' He said, 'I don't want to rain on the thing for her, but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player.'" (Bill Adair, "I Helped To Bring Peace To Northern Ireland," PolitiFact, 3/10/08)

Clinton Took Liberties When Describing A Trip To Macedonia She Made As First Lady

In 2008, Clinton Listed A Trip To Macedonia To Negotiate Opening Its Borders For Refugees Fleeing From Kosovo As A Specific Example Of An Occasion When She Was The "Go-To Person" During A Foreign Policy Crisis . ABC'S KIRAN CHETRY: "All of those points are well taken. I was wondering if you could point to a specific crisis where you were the go-to person?" CLINTON: "Well, you know, there isn't any way that anyone who has not been president, but you know the administration sent me to war- torn zones. I was the first person from the Clinton administration to go into Bosnia after the Dayton peace accords. You know, I went to Macedonia and sat down with their government and negotiated opening up that border. There are a lot of examples." (CNN's "American Morning," 3/5/08)

  • Clinton: "I Negotiated Open Borders To Let Fleeing Refugees Into Safety From Kosovo." CLINTON: "I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo." (CNN's "American Morning," 3/5/08)

But Clinton Did Not Actually Negotiate Opening Borders - "Macedonia Had Reopened Its Border To Kosovar Refugees The Day Before Clinton's Arrival." "More significantly, Clinton did not in fact 'negotiate on matters such as opening borders for refugees during the war in Kosovo.' Macedonia had reopened its border to Kosovar refugees the day before Clinton's arrival, as has been widely reported." ("Hillary's Adventures Abroad," FactCheck.Org, 3/25/08)

  • Clinton's Website Touted Her Travel To "The Edge Of The Warzone" Before Her Negotiations, But Clinton Did Not Go To An "Active Combat Zone" And The Risks She Did Take Were "Not Exceptional." "In a March 5 interview on CNN, Clinton said that she 'negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo.' Clinton is referring to her May 14, 1999, trip to Macedonia, which shares a border with Kosovo. According to her Web site, Clinton 'traveled to the international border on the edge of the war zone' before meeting with Macedonia's president and prime minister. We note, first, that Clinton's claim that the refugee camp was 'on the edge of a war zone' gives an exaggerated picture of the risk involved. Traveling to the Kosovo border was more dangerous than remaining in Washington, and the trip did involve some risk. But Clinton did not land in the middle of an active combat zone, and the risks that she did take were not exceptional: Prior visitors to the refugee camp included Richard Gere and Bianca Jagger. For that matter, much of the 'war' in Kosovo consisted of NATO airstrikes against the Yugoslav troops who had forced thousands of ethnic Albanians to flee Kosovo, and the nearest NATO ground troops were deployed in Albania, more than 100 miles away from Clinton. " ("Hillary's Adventures Abroad," FactCheck.Org, 3/25/08)

Clinton Overstated Her Travel Schedule As First Lady, Implying She Traveled To Dangerous Areas

In 2008, Clinton Described The Unofficial White House Policy As "If A Place Was Too Small, Or Too Dangerous, The President Couldn't Go, So Send The First Lady. That's Where We Went." CLINTON: "I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn't go, so send the First Lady. That's where we went." (Hillary Clinton, Remarks , Washington, D.C., 3/17/08)

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PolitiFact: "Clinton Went To Many Places That Were, Large, Wealthy And Safe." "We analyzed Clinton's international travel based on recently released White House schedules, interviews with traveling companions and scholars, as well as news reports from those trips. We found that Clinton went to many places that were large, wealthy and safe." (Angie Drobnic Holan, "She Was No Emissary To The Obscure," PolitiFact, 3/17/08)

  • "Her Travel Itinerary Is Hardly A Tour Of The World's Most Obscure Countries. Rather, Her Travels Tended To Emphasize Stable Allies Of The United States, Many Of Which Are Quite Populous." "They may not be the top NATO allies, but we can't consider any of these countries to meet the trifecta of small, poor and dangerous. Yes, she did go to places like Iceland (pretty small), Eritrea (poor) and Bosnia (arguably dangerous at the time she visited). But her travel itinerary is hardly a tour of the world's most obscure countries. Rather, her travels tended to emphasize stable allies of the United States, many of which are quite populous." (Angie Drobnic Holan, "She Was No Emissary To The Obscure," PolitiFact, 3/17/08)

Clinton Exaggerated Her Role In Getting China To Recognize Women's Rights While She Was First Lady

In 2008, Clinton Took "Credit For Pressuring The Chinese Government To Recognize Women's Rights, And For Taking The Beijing Government To Task For Its Overall Human Rights Record." "Pointing to her experience confronting a foreign giant on a diplomatically sensitive matter, Sen. Hillary Clinton takes credit for pressuring the Chinese government to recognize women's rights, and for taking the Beijing government to task for its overall human rights record." ("A Great Speech, What Else?" PolitiFact, 3/11/08)

  • Clinton, 2008: "I Went To Beijing In 1995 And Spoke Out For Women's Rights And Human Rights. The Chinese Government Wasn't Happy…" CLINTON: "Dealing with the rising power of China provides an example. I went to Beijing in 1995 and spoke out for women's rights and human rights. The Chinese government wasn't happy; they pulled the plug on the broadcast of my speech. But I took that as a compliment. Because it was important for the United States both to be represented and to make absolutely clear that human rights is an integral part of our foreign policy and that women's rights is key to that. What we have learned is that where women are oppressed and denied their basic rights we are more likely to have regimes that are more adversarial to American interests and values." (Hillary Clinton, Remarks At George Washington University, Washington, D.C., 2/25/08)

The Carnegie Endowment For International Peace's Thomas Carothers: "In No Way Was [Clinton's Speech] A Major Confrontation With The Chinese Government, Or Did It In Any Way Resemble A Crisis." "'In no way was this (Clinton's speech) a major confrontation with the Chinese government, or did it in any way resemble a crisis,' said Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies-international politics and governance at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 'It was a good speech that set out principles but didn't go outside the bounds of the relatively mild approach to China the U.S. was taking at the time. It was one of many pushes from the outside ... it couldn't be said to change the direction of China's legal reform.'" ("A Great Speech, What Else?" PolitiFact, 3/11/08)

PolitiFact, 2008: "[T]he Clinton Campaign Has Failed To Show She Has Been Involved In The Long-Term Commitment For Improvements In China That Her Statement Suggests." "Yes, Clinton delivered a tough speech implying Chinese policies were unacceptable at a global gathering in that nation's capital city. But the Clinton campaign has failed to show she has been involved in the long-term commitment for improvements in China that her statement suggests. We find her claim to be Half True." ("A Great Speech, What Else?" PolitiFact, 3/11/08)


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