White Lies

White Lies

White Lies

A campaign blog.
April 8 2008 3:07 PM

White Lies

Just yesterday we told you that Hillary Clinton was a serial spreader of misinformation —and we used the recent revelations that Clinton was using a false anecdote on the stump to prove our point. It turns out that we were as wrong as Hillary: Clinton’s story was partly true—but neither she nor we knew it. The story in question is about a woman who delivered a stillborn child and died shortly after in Ohio. But beyond those basic details, the rest becomes a bit hazy.

Essentially, this is a giant game of telephone . Just for you, we wiretapped the convos. Here’s a quick rundown of how the story began, and how it transformed from there.  

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First, someone tells the story to Meigs County Deputy Sheriff Bryan Holman . This was the conversation that started it all, but we don’t know when it took place or what was said. We only know that later, Holman told the AP that he had heard the story second-hand. The New York Times reports that he heard it from a close relative of the deceased.

Next, Holman tells Clinton about Trina Bachtel —an Ohio woman who died two weeks after the fetus she was carrying also passed away. Holman said that Bachtel had outstanding bills at a local hospital because she was uninsured, and when she returned while pregnant, the hospital refused to see her unless she could pay a $100 fee. Still uninsured, according to Holman, Bachtel went to another local hospital, where they "stopped her labor" and told her to come back in two days. Before that could happen, she delivered the stillborn child. Later, Bachtel was flown to Columbus, Ohio, where she died within 15 days.

Clinton runs with the story and starts relaying it in her stump speech as proof that the country needs universalized health care. In one instance, according to the AP , Clinton told an audience in Terre Haute, Ind., that Bachtel was uninsured and refused care at a hospital while she was pregnant. She did not mention Bachtel’s outstanding bills and implied that she delivered the stillborn child at the same hospital that initially refused to care for Bechtel. This is different from what Holman told Clinton. (Neither Holman nor Clinton named Bachtel or the hospital.)  

The New York Times interviews representatives from the hospital —O’Bleness Memorial—where Bachtel delivered her stillborn child and discovers that they never refused to treat Bachtel. They also claim that she was insured at the time of treatment, a detail that directly contradicts Clinton’s version of the events.

The Clinton campaign admits to not fully vetting the story and says that they trust the hospital to tell the truth. They promise to stop telling the story in Clinton’s stump speech.  

Bachtel’s aunt talks to the Washington Post and confirms that Bachtel did have insurance at the time of her death. But when she originally went to the first hospital (before she was pregnant), she was not insured and could not pay the $100 fee for treatment. The hospital sent her a letter that said she couln’t be treated there until she paid off her debt. Meanwhile, before she got pregnant, she acquired insurance but still didn’t go to the hospital closest to her because of her outstanding debt that she still couldn’t afford. (This, remember, contradicts what Holman originally told Clinton—that Bachtel went to the hospital she was indebted to while she was pregnant.) Instead, she went to O’Bleness, where she delivered a stillborn baby, and then died in the Columbus hospital a couple of weeks later. So, Clinton was right that Bachtel was uninsured—at one point she was—but wrong to say that she was uninsured during her pregnancy. Clinton also led voters to believe there was one repeat-offender hospital, when there was really a good-hospital, bad-hospital schema in play.

As of now, that’s where we stand. Clinton probably won’t be incorporating the anecdote into her stump speech anytime soon, but she still comes out of the mini-flap looking like she wasn't fully truthful with voters. The real issue is that nobody on her campaign called to confirm the story—both when it was first told and then when the hospital asserted its version of events. As the Times and Post have proven, it would have taken only two calls. But making two calls for every voter anecdote takes a long time, something that isn't always ensured on the trail.