What did Mickey Kantor really say?

An informal advisor to Hillary Clinton is being accused of slurring Indianans -- he, and the director of the footage in question, say it's not true.

By Alex Koppelman
May 2, 2008 9:48PM (UTC)
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A former aide to Bill Clinton is the center of controversy today after a video emerged on YouTube in which he allegedly says, "Look at Indiana -- 42-40. It doesn't matter if we win; those people are shit. How would you like to be a worthless white ni***r?"

The former aide in question is Mickey Kantor, who was the chairman of Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign; he's now an informal advisor to Hillary Clinton. The clip is taken from legendary director D.A. Pennebaker's documentary about the 1992 Clinton campaign, "The War Room."


But as quickly as the video surfaced and the controversy began, it seems now to have abated, as those who jumped on the story early are now largely walking it back and both Kantor and Pennebaker have contended that the clip in which Kantor's shown saying that is doctored. The video that kick-started all this has been pulled from YouTube; a longer clip from the movie that includes the disputed moment is below. (The section in question begins at about 4:38 in.)

In an interview with the Huffington Post's Sam Stein, Kantor said, "I've never used that word in my entire life, ever, under any circumstance, ever ... If you look at The War Room, this is not the way [James] Carville or George [Stephanopoulos] interpreted my statement. This is frankly libelous ... My parents would come from the grave and kill me if I used that word." In his report on the interview, Stein concluded, "A review of the original copy ... is virtually inaudible. The sound suggests, if anything, that instead of saying 'How would you like to be a worthless white n****r?' Kantor says, 'How would you like to be in the White House right now?'"

After rewatching the clip, Pennebaker told the Politico's Ben Smith, "He does not say that. He does not say that ... What he says is he's surprised Perot's numbers are holding. He says they must be shitting in the White House." Pennebaker also told Smith that when the movie was released in theaters, no one thought Kantor said what he's now alleged to have said, and that he thinks audio was dubbed onto the original video. Smith also spoke to the editor of the YouTube clip, and reports the editor "said that he enhanced, but didn't alter, the audio in the second portion of the video."


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Hillary Rodham Clinton War Room