When we tried earlier this week to pick our way through the squabble over Tim Russert's debate questioning of Hillary Clinton, we probably should have mentioned that FactCheck.org had already done it.
On Oct. 31, FactCheck declared that Clinton had been "misleading" when she "falsely implied" that documents from her time as first lady were slow in coming because of bureaucratic delays at the National Archives. In fact, FactCheck declared, former President Bill Clinton wrote a letter in 2002 in which he "specifically identified communications between himself and the First Lady (among others) as items that should remain sealed until 2012."
But as we noted earlier this week, that's not quite a fact. What the former president said in his 2002 letter was that documents reflecting communications between Bill and Hillary should be "considered for withholding," which means only that the staff of the National Archives should review the documents and consult with Clinton's designated representative -- Bruce Lindsey -- before deciding whether to release them to the public.
FactCheck now stands corrected. In a new version of its analysis that went up last night, FactCheck says "it was moderator Tim Russert who misled" when he told Hillary Clinton that the former president's letter "specifically ask[ed] that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012."
"Russert was wrong, and so were we," FactCheck says now. "Bill Clinton ... called Russert's question 'breathtakingly misleading,' and we now agree."
FactCheck says Hillary Clinton was still wrong when she said that, as far as she knew, all the records involving her efforts on healthcare as first lady had been released. But a spokeswoman for the National Archives tells FactCheck that there's not a whole lot either Clinton or her husband can do to get the documents out any faster. Even if the former president were to waive any concerns he has over documents related to his wife, the Archives spokeswoman says, "we'd still have to screen each page for other exemptions, including the privacy of third persons and national security."