Politico smeared Hillary Clinton

Pro Tip: it’s a good idea to pay attention to a candidate’s actual words when reporting on them.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Earlier last week, hackers released audio stolen from a Clinton campaign staffer’s email account, which captures Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaking at a fundraiser last February. In that audio, Clinton explains why she believes many of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT), supporters in the 2016 Democratic primary feel like they’ve gotten a raw deal.

They’re children of the Great Recession. And they are living in their parents’ basement. They feel they got their education and the jobs that are available to them are not at all what they envisioned for themselves. And they don’t see much of a future. I met with a group of young black millennials today and you know one of the young women said, “You know, none of us feel that we have the job that we should have gotten out of college. And we don’t believe the job market is going to give us much of a chance.”

One person who agrees with Clinton’s assessment of many of Sanders’ supporters is Sen. Bernie Sanders. Appearing on CNN Sunday morning, Sanders told host Jake Tapper that “a very important point that she made is that a lot of young people who went into debt, worked very hard to get a good education, get out of school and can’t find jobs commensurate with the education that they received. And there’s a lot of unhappiness about young people and this is an issue that we must address.”

Nevertheless, despite this broad agreement between Sanders and Clinton, here’s how Politico initially reported on Clinton’s comments:

As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel lays out, the stolen audio was available for several days without making any meaningful waves in the news cycle. It was first reported by the conservative Washington Free Beacon last Tuesday, although that report focused on unrelated comments Clinton made about nuclear weapons. Two reporters from The Intercept picked it up on Friday, largely claiming that the audio showed that Clinton was insufficiently far to the left. It wasn’t until Politico falsely reported that Clinton mocked Sanders’ supporters that the story grew legs.


Trump’s campaign manager reacted to the Politico headline with predicable outrage. A hashtag, #BasementDwellers, blew up on Twitter, despite the fact that Clinton never used the phrase “basement dwellers.”

In any event, Politico appears to have confessed error. The headline on their piece now reads “Clinton gives her take on Sanders supporters in leaked fundraising recording.” The piece also includes an editor’s note, which explains that “the headline and lede of this story have been changed to better reflect Clinton’s tone.”

But that was after Politico’s false report triggered a viral hashtag, a misleading attack by the Trump campaign, and coverage of Clinton’s supposedly mocking comments on the cable news networks.