We first heard about it from a reporter at the Dallas Morning News.
There was a fight in the middle of the night at the White House between Bill and Hillary Clinton. It got nasty, he said, and Hillary threw a lamp at the president. The Dallas reporter thought the story originated with Chicago radio station WLS. We called the station. “No, no,” they told us, “we didn’t break the story. It was Bill Zwecker at the Chicago Sun-Times.” So we called Bill Zwecker, who writes a column for the Windy City newspaper.
Yes, Mr. Zwecker told us, he had written about the incident, not in any malicious way, but just as a matter of fact. His story was “totally confirmed by two high-level White House aides.” He assured us he was “very confident in his sources.” He also said that subsequent stories about the incident exaggerated the facts. It wasn’t clear, he said, whether the lamp in fact had been tossed, or merely knocked over during the heat of the argument.
Following our first conversation with Mr. Zwecker, HCQ received a phone call from the White House.
Lisa Caputo, Hillary Clinton’s press secretary, told us the story was “a flat out lie.” She said “anyone who knows the Clintons and Hillary Clinton knows this is completely untrue.”
Back we went to Mr. Zwecker. “I stand by my story,” he said. “The White House and the president are control freaks. Ms. Caputo is just doing damage control.” He said that the White House called him to deny the incident about five weeks after his original story appeared in the Sun-Times. Did he then re-check the facts with his sources? “I absolutely called them back. They assured me, ‘we’re telling you the truth.'”
The saga of the lamp raises at least three relevant issues:
Issue #1 — Who to believe? It comes down to this: believe who you want to believe. Mr. Zwecker stands by his story; he works for a reputable newspaper; our conversations with him revealed no hidden agendas or personal axes to grind against the Clintons. Lisa Caputo denies the story. Is this story so important to the image of the first lady that Ms. Caputo would personally get on the phone and lie about it? Why would she deny the story if it were true?
Issue #2 — Is the story fair game? If Hillary Rodham Clinton were a traditional first lady and not chairwoman of the national health care task force, not directly involved in selecting Administration staff members, not directly involved in advising the president on nearly every aspect of social policy, maybe the story should be off-limits. Hillary Clinton is not just a first lady. She’s our co-president, remember? If a White House source claimed that Warren Christopher threw a lamp at the president, would that be news?
Issue #3 — So what? If this incident really took place, why should anyone be surprised? Why should it damage our perceptions of the First Couple? HCQ’s random survey of married couples indicates that 96% at one time or another either threw — or wish they had thrown — a heavy, solid object at his or her spouse. We sense that Bill and Hillary live in the real world, as a real couple. A heated argument between two driven, intelligent baby-boomers with high-stress jobs is no novelty.
Whether the lamp was real or imaginary, America should be able to handle it.