"It is possible ... that she misspoke"

Hillary Clinton's spokesman admits an account Clinton gave of her trip to Bosnia doesn't square with the evidence.

By Alex Koppelman
Published March 24, 2008 7:09PM (EDT)

As Salon's Mark Benjamin has documented in this space, Hillary Clinton's telling of her experiences during a 1996 trip to Bosnia doesn't jibe with either her schedule for the trip or the memory of comedian Sinbad, who accompanied her. Plenty of other reporters, bloggers and pundits have done similar analyses. But it took video evidence (which you can watch at the bottom of this post) to make Clinton's campaign walk back these comments the candidate made last week:

I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia. And as Togo [West, former secretary of the Army] 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. 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.

In a conference call Monday, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson was asked about his candidate's description of what had happened in Bosnia. Wolfson said, "It is possible in the most recent instance in which she discussed this that she misspoke in regard to the exit from the plane, but there is no question if you look at contemporaneous accounts that she was going to a potential combat zone, that she was on the front lines."

According to the New York Times' Caucus blog, Wolfson cited Clinton's memoir, "Living History," noting that in it she wrote about sniper fire in nearby hills -- not at the tarmac -- and "clearly meant to say that" in the disputed account. Wolfson also said Clinton had used the inaccurate characterization only once, but the Caucus takes issue with that, citing one other example.

Update: Barack Obama's campaign has responded to Wolfson's comment, saying, "The Clinton campaign claimed today that Senator Clinton 'misspoke' when she described a supposedly harrowing landing in Tuzla, Bosnia as First Lady in 1996 -- despite the fact that the claim appeared in her prepared remarks."

In the statement, Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said, "Senator Clinton said that a planned welcoming ceremony was cancelled because they needed to avoid sniper fire, but news footage shows that she was met by a small child who read her a poem. Contrary to the latest spin from the Clinton campaign, when you make a false claim that's in your prepared remarks, it's not misspeaking, it's misleading, and it's part of a troubling pattern of Senator Clinton inflating her foreign policy experience."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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