Sen. Bill Clinton? Really?

A new Fox News talking point doesn't seem to hold water.

Published February 22, 2007 1:21AM (EST)

We're a little late getting to this, but we've been fascinated for several days by a recent article by Bill Sammon of the Washington Examiner. In his article, Sammon wrote, "If Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the presidency, some top Democrats would like to see her husband, former President Bill Clinton, appointed to serve out Hillary's unexpired Senate term." Fox News then took up that ball and ran with it; the story inspired hysterical commentary from Sean Hannity, who warned that "with Senator Hillary Clinton making her run for the White House, many supporters are looking at husband Bill to fill her Senate seat if she wins," and wondered if we would be getting "two for the price of one."

It wasn't particularly surprising to see Sammon's story getting pushed so hard by Fox; as a former reporter for the Republican-leaning Washington Times, Sammon should be used to that by now. It's a familiar part of the right-wing echo chamber: A reporter like Sammon writes something that gets picked up by Brit Hume and other Fox anchors, then pushed out to the mainstream as a new talking point.

But what did surprise us, when we read Sammon's piece, was just how little it seemed to say of what Fox said it did. The way we read it, Sammon wasn't reporting on actual support for the appointment of Bill Clinton to his wife's Senate seat -- he was asking prominent Clinton supporters how they would feel if it happened. For instance, Harold Ickes, President Clinton's former deputy chief of staff, is quoted only as saying, "As a senator, he'd be a knockout. He knows issues, he loves public policy and he's a good politician." Paul Begala, another former advisor to the president, was quoted similarly.

Sammon didn't respond to a request for comment, and neither did Ickes or Begala, but University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, who was also quoted in the story, did. In an interview with Salon, he said that he had asked Sammon if the reporter had any information on serious consideration of the possibility of Bill Clinton's appointment to the Senate and was told "it was a chitchat piece."

"People haven't gotten that far," Sabato said. "I certainly don't think [Clinton supporters] are plotting to do that. It's not part of the dialogue, and I don't think it would be a serious consideration for anybody yet."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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