Below is Richard Poe's exclusive interview with author Edward Klein. To read his review of Klein's book The Truth About Hillary, click here.
They say it takes a thief to catch a thief. After all these years, it may turn out to be Edward Klein — a pillar of the Old Media establishment — who finally succeeds in getting the truth out about Hillary. Legions of conservative writers (your faithful correspondent included) have written books exposing Hillary’s radical agenda and dictatorial methods. But our efforts have faired poorly against the Big Media juggernaut whose loyalty Hillary commands.
Klein may succeed where conservative authors did not. His new book, The Truth About Hillary, has a realistic shot at receiving mass media coverage. If widely read, it could potentially undermine the junior senator’s presidential ambitions as fatally as Unfit for Command torpedoed John Kerry’s.
Try though they might, Hillary’s defenders cannot dismiss Klein as a cog in the “Republican Noise Machine.” Born in 1936, Klein is a respected and venerable figure in the pro-Democrat New York media, having served as editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine for nearly eleven years (1977-1987) and, before that, as foreign editor of Newsweek. Under Klein’s editorship, the New York Times Magazine won its first Pulitzer Prize and evolved from a money-loser to a moneymaker, netting $20 million in profit on $130 million in gross revenue in 1987, the year Klein left.
Klein’s publisher Sentinel, a division of the Penguin Group, has printed 350,000 copies of The Truth About Hillary in its first press run. The book debuted on The New York Times non-fiction bestseller list on Sunday, July 3, in the number two spot — becoming Klein’s fifth consecutive bestseller in 12 years. Klein’s previous books include such blockbusters as The Kennedy Curse and All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy.
Despite his advantages, Klein faces an uphill battle with this particular book. Hillary’s attack machine has descended in force, pressuring major talk shows to cancel Klein’s appearances, after they had already scheduled him.
The most stunning flip-flop came from Tina Brown. Only weeks ago, Brown was begging Klein for an advance copy of his Hillary exposé, vowing to “shout out” Klein’s praises. The two have been on friendly terms for years. It was Tina Brown who recruited Klein in the early ‘90s to write for Vanity Fair when she was editor there. To Klein’s surprise, his old editor unexpectedly lashed out at him in her Washington Post column of June 23, calling him “Ed Slime” and a “sniper in the Republican stage army.” Brown wrote, "Maybe it's a secret fantasy of girl-on-girl action that makes Ed Klein obsess about Sen. Hillary Clinton's supposed lesbian ethos in his new book `The Truth About Hillary.’ It's hard to know what else he has to draw on. Yelling `lesbian’ at powerful heterosexual women has always been the pathetic projection of the menaced male…”
FrontPage interviewed Mr. Klein in two sessions, on June 28 and July 1. The two interviews have been merged and edited for length and clarity.
FPM: Mr. Klein, you have made no bones about the fact that you hope your book, The Truth About Hillary, will be instrumental in ending Mrs. Clinton’s political career. Why do you want to stop Hillary?
Klein: Because I think she would be a danger to the country. I think she’d be a very Nixonian figure in the White House. You can tell a lot about a presidential candidate from the way they have behaved in the past. Hillary is a Madam Defarge-like character. She’s a person who lashes out viciously at her opponents and will use any tactics to destroy them. She would not be a steady hand in the White House. She would be plotting the destruction of her opponents at every turn. I think she would use the departments of the government, like the FBI and the IRS, to punish her enemies and reward her friends, as she has in the past.
FPM: Do you believe that your book packs sufficient wallop to knock Hillary out of the ring in 2008?
Klein: Yes, but whether it will, in fact, knock her out is another question entirely. Hillary has been able to sustain brutally damaging indictments in the past.
FPM: You’ve said that you’re a registered independent, but I do get the impression that you lean to the left. For example, you describe Al Gore in your book as a centrist. In my experience, people usually see those who agree with them as centrists. Would you say that Al Gore’s politics are pretty much yours?
Klein: No. I really do think of myself as an independent. I’m registered as an independent. I hardly ever vote because I don’t want to interfere with my journalism, by feeling committed to one side or the other. I just don’t see myself as an ideologue. I think Al Gore, by the way, in the context of the Democratic Party, is a centrist. In the context of American politics, I think Al Gore is a leftwing liberal.
FPM: Still, you were editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine for nearly eleven years…
Klein: And was severely criticized by members of the staff for turning the magazine to the right. I would say that I took the magazine from its traditional left-liberal orientation and brought it back at least to the center, much like the way Abe Rosenthal did to The New York Times in general. I was hired by Abe. When I worked for The New York Times between 1977 and ‘87, under Abe Rosenthal, that newspaper was not being excoriated as a leftwing rag, because it wasn’t one. I agreed with Abe. Our politics were the same. The magazine was in sync with the rest of the paper, which was very much an effort to be down the middle.
FPM: There are lots of Hillary books out there. It seems to me that what principally distinguishes your book from the rest is the emphasis that you put on Hillary’s, shall we say, ambiguous sexuality. Would you agree?
Klein: I would say that’s one of the things. Not the thing, but one of them.
FPM: What are the others?
Klein: Her knowledge of Bill’s philandering, especially with Monica; her illegal drug-taking at Yale; her childhood training by her father in boxing, wrestling and other contact sports; her secret role in the Nixon impeachment inquiry, that she was part of a Ted Kennedy plot to keep Richard Nixon twisting in the wind as long as possible, in order to continue to weaken him and the Republican Party, so that Kennedy would have an easier time being elected president in 1976; her campaign strategy against [Rick] Lazio, the use of [Harold Ickes crony and New York State Comptroller] Carl McCall to smear Lazio. Her Nixonianism. In the book, I enumerate which states she thinks she has a shot at winning that were lost by Kerry in 2004, and how she might put together a majority of the electoral votes. So there are a lot of things in this book that distinguish it.
FPM: In your view, how does Hillary’s alleged lesbianism bear on her suitability to be president?
Klein: The discussion of Hillary’s lesbianism in my book is meant to shed light on the circumstances and atmosphere in which her political philosophy took shape. During the mid-1960s, Hillary was a student at Wellesley College, an all-girls’ school in New England, which was going through a revolutionary change and was rife with radical feminism and lesbianism, and it was in that atmosphere that Hillary became the political person that she did, with a very far-left political agenda.
Hillary owes a great deal to the gay and lesbian movement in this country, in the sense that they’ve donated a great deal of money to her cause, they vote for her in a bloc, they provide some of her most active campaigners, and as president I think she would be extremely friendly to this group and open to their demands, including their drive for the legalization of gay marriage.
FPM: You are very cautious in your book about stating that, despite Hillary’s obvious allegiance to the lesbian cause and her immersion in a lesbian milieu, she may not be sexually active as a lesbian.
Klein: That’s correct. Camille Paglia said that she doesn’t think Hillary is a lesbian, but she wouldn’t be surprised if Hillary experimented with lesbianism in college. I would tend to agree with that.
FPM: As you noted, your book critiques many aspects of Hillary’s conduct and character, but realistically speaking, the media and public will almost certainly zero in on the lesbian issue, as the most sensational of your charges. Do you think that this charge, in and of itself — the charge that Hillary may be a lesbian or that at least she has an allegiance to the lesbian cause and to the radical lesbian political agenda — would suffice to stop Hillary’s political career, if it were widely disseminated and believed?
Klein: I think the answer to that is no, if it were just a question of her being sexually active as a lesbian, especially if she had been active in college but not since. On the other hand, if it can be established — which I think it can be — that her allegiance to the lesbian agenda, as you rightly put it, had affected and will continue to affect her politics and her policies and her agenda as president, and would indicate an ultra-leftwing agenda, then I think the answer is yes. It would be sufficient to prevent her from becoming president.
FPM: In the June 16 issue of The New York Observer, Sheila Kohlhatkar states that, by writing The Truth About Hillary, and I’m quoting, “Edward Klein… became the pariah of the world that made him,” by which I suppose she means the world of big media or mainstream media or perhaps center-lef t media , as Hugh Hewitt would put it. Does that observation ring true to you? Have you been anathematized by your media colleagues?
Klein: The ones that I’ve read, yes.
FPM: Your recent tiff with Tina Brown was very amusing. Why do you suppose she turned on you so suddenly?
Klein: I don’t know. I was shocked. She had written me an e-mail begging me to send her an early copy of the book before it was published. She said that she was going to do a column on Hillary and that she’d include my book and shout out its praises. “Shout out” — a phrase that I’m not familiar with. Maybe it’s British. Maybe it’s Tina. Who knows?
So she was, you know, schmeicheling me, spinning me, to give her an early copy and finally we did give her a copy about two or three days before the book was published. I expected her to say whatever she wanted to say about the book, like it, not like it, and so forth, but I certainly didn’t expect her to assault me and my talent as a writer, which she did. And I found it very strange, since it was she who had built my career as a writer in the first place. I’d been an editor for 25 years before I started writing for her and, to a large degree, they were my pieces in Vanity Fair that brought me to the attention of a reading public. I can’t remember a single idea that I suggested to her that she didn’t think was a good idea.
In my view, this is obviously an effort on her part to curry favor with the Clintons by showing them how tough she can be on their critics. And that’s Tina’s way of insinuating herself. She’s a great weasely insinuator.
FPM: So you are getting a sharper reaction than you expected?
Klein: I was shocked when I read in the New York Observer that Ken Auletta commented on one of my books about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, regarding the story of how she lost her virginity, he wrote, “Who gives a sh-t?”
It was a very out of control statement. He could have said, “I don’t think that’s important for people to know,” or “that’s more information than we need,” or “I think that’s egregious,” or a number of things. But he said, “Who gives a sh-t?” That’s something that indicates an angry guy who has some emotional feelings about me that I was unaware of, and who wasn’t in control of himself when he made that statement.
Ken and I have known each other for years. We lived near each other in the Hamptons when my wife and I still owned a house in Bridgehampton, which we no longer do. I know his wife Binky. I know his friends. We have the same group of friends.
The second example I would give is this week’s New Yorker magazine, in which David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker does the lead Talk of the Town piece and refers to me as a pornographer.
Now something is going on here, something on the left, the liberal left, in which there is a huge emotional backlash against this book. These people might not like the The Truth About Hillary. That’s fine. That’s their business. But why this reaching for hyperbolic thunderbolts to throw at me?
FPM: Have you ever experienced anything like this before?
Klein: No. And I was criticized quite seriously for my last bestseller. You know, I’ve had five bestsellers in a row now. The last one was The Kennedy Curse, in which I write about the dysfunctional marriage between John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Caroline Bessette. Everybody accused me of making things up, and having bad sourcing and exaggerating and lying and cheating and every word you can tell. Of course, everything turned out to be true. Everything I wrote later turned out to be true. But that was nothing compared to the response to The Truth About Hillary, which has been very ad hominem.
Now it would only be fair and accurate to point out that the same is true from the right. John Podhoretz’s column about my book sounded like Joe Heller or David Mamet on a bad day. Peggy Noonan, a friend of mine, went nuts over this book. Dick Morris criticized the book, [Bill] O’Reilly, what have you. It appears that some people on the right feel that I don’t have the conservative bona fides to write about Hillary. They feel like, in some way, that I’m outside the tribe and don’t deserve to have a successful book on Hillary.
On the left, I think they’re all desperate to regain the White House, so that they can all go down to the Renaissance Weekend with Hillary or jump up and down on the four-poster bed in the Lincoln Bedroom along with Markie Post and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. It’s clearly hit huge raw nerves, on the left and the right.
FPM: Have any talk shows cancelled out on you over this book?
Klein: Yeah. ABC Good Morning, America wanted me on, and then backed away. Chris Matthews scheduled me, then dropped me. Joe Scarborough scheduled me and four hours before I was supposed to go on, disinvited me. Paula Zahn scheduled me, disinvited me. NBC Today expressed very serious interest in having me on, backed away. Now these are all shows that I’ve been on for previous books. I’ve been on many of these shows several times, for many previous books. I’ve had a lot of TV for my books in the past. I was scheduled to go on Fox and Friends, the John Gibson Show on Fox, and a couple of other Fox shows, all of which cancelled.
FPM: Did any of these tell you why they were cancelling?
Klein: Well, the Chris Matthews producer said, and I quote, we decided his book was a piece of crap — again, a very intemperate remark to make to a publisher. Please understand me, if people don’t like my book, that’s their right. If they have criticisms of my book, I’d like to hear them, but to call the book a piece of crap, and to refer to what I’ve written in the past as “who gives a sh-t,” that’s so intemperate that it goes beyond saying, and so was Peggy Noonan, in many ways. So there’s something going on here that maybe you, as a cultural observer, can understand even better than I. Some producer at Fox said something to the effect that public interest in the book has flagged. That’s a joke. The interest in the book has been enormous. The book has been selling like hotcakes. It was a patently untrue assertion.
FPM: Do you have any reason to think that Hillary or her operatives might have caused those cancellations?
Klein: Howard Kurtz, the media reporter for the Washington Post, appearing on a television program, said that he called Mrs. Clinton’s office and asked that very question, whether they, the Clinton folks, had anything to do with these cancellations, and he got an affirmative reply from them. In addition, one of Mrs. and Mr. Clinton’s closest friends in the media is Rick Kaplan, the president of MSNBC. Rick Kaplan has, according to an on-air anchor whom I spoke to, sent down a ruling that no one on MSNBC is to have me on their air. I have been cancelled by many other shows and have heard second-hand that these shows have cancelled me under pressure from Mrs. Clinton’s machinery of censorship. You know, Hillary is such an important and powerful figure in Washington that to say Hillary will not be pleased is the same or the equivalent of saying Queen Victoria will not be pleased. Her Majesty will not be pleased. That doesn’t have to be spelled out. People know what that means. That means, if you do it, you’re going to get yourself into big trouble, buddy.
FPM: David Brock has published a few hit pieces about you on his Web site MediaMatters.org. In one, the writer implies that you were let go or lost your job at The New York Times Magazine as a result of lapses in journalistic standards on your watch.
Klein: [laughs] What were those?
FPM: He named some story about Cambodia…
[Editor’s Note: In 1982, the New York Times Magazine published an article by freelance writer Christopher Jones, in which Jones claimed to have entered Cambodia and gotten a glimpse of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot through binoculars. The entire story turned out to be fabricated.]
Klein: That was a hoax perpetrated by a freelance writer.
FPM: Media Matters also mentioned a couple of other much more minor examples…
Klein: Well, there was a misidentified photo, and then there was a misidentified writer, in other words, we called her a secretary when in fact she was much more than a secretary. Those were the three.
I was there for eleven years and those were the three things, three errors, if you’d like, that occurred. Certainly the Cambodian thing was very serious. We corrected it on the front page of The New York Times, and I was part of that. I went to Spain, along with two New York Times correspondents to debrief this hoaxer whose name I refuse to remember. And we came back and wrote this story for The New York Times saying we got hoaxed. I don’t think that’s a lapse of standards. We were fooled. I’m not proud of that. It’s too bad. But we certainly corrected it as quickly as we could.
Me leaving the Times had nothing to do with any of those alleged problems. I think it had to do with the fact that Abe Rosenthal and Max Frankel were the worst of enemies. After I was there for eleven years or ten years, whatever it was, Abe resigned and retired. Guess who took over? Max Frankel, his chief nemesis, the guy he disliked the most. Max hated Abe, vice versa. And Max was not very kindly disposed to me. Abe had fired Max’s best friend and number two guy Jack Rosenthal as editor of the magazine and brought me in. So Max and I didn’t get along. I was happy to move on and he was happy to see me go.
FPM: So he was making you feel uncomfortable there, and you quit?
Klein: Exactly. Resigned, yes.
FPM: A number of press accounts that appeared at the time of your resignation did mention those errors — the Cambodia story and the others — as if to imply that they had something to do with your leaving. Do you think Mr. Frankel may have leaked those stories to the press, to give the impression that you had left the magazine in disgrace?
Klein: It’s certainly possible, knowing Max. I wouldn’t dismiss that as a possibility. I wouldn’t put anything past Max. Max is a back-stabber. He smiles at you and stabs you in the back. He’s not a good guy.
FPM: You mentioned the problem of conservatives not liking your book. In my observation, there are various different reasons for this. Some conservatives have theorized that your book is an effort to give Hillary what they call a “soft landing” on the lesbian issue. As a Clinton watcher, you probably know what the soft landing tactic is, but for the sake of our readers, let me explain. The soft landing is an old Clinton ploy for manipulating the media. Clinton spinmeister Lanny Davis wrote about this tactic in his White House memoir Truth to Tell. In that book, Davis describes how, if he knew that bad news about the Clintons was coming down the pike, he would try to beat the media to the punch. He would proactively leak the bad news himself, whatever it was, to certain hand-picked reporters, among them John Solomon of UPI, on the principle that, if you know bad news is coming out anyway, you might as well take the initiative, get it out early and get your own sanitized version of the story out there before anyone else’s version. Now, Mr. Klein, some conservatives wonder if your book might be part of just that sort of Lanny Davis-style maneuver, that perhaps it’s intended to innoculate the public against more detailed, less kind or perhaps less sympathetic treatments of Hillary’s sexual orientation than yours that may be coming down the pike. How would you respond?
Klein: I have heard that charge. It presupposes that I am operating on behalf of some secret cabal and I can assure you that I have been in touch with no such cabal regarding this book or any other book that I’ve ever written. All the conclusions in this book are drawn from my own personal interviews and research and I made no effort to pull my punches.
FPM: Some conservatives complain that you’ve written a sordid, distasteful book, and that, by focusing largely on innuendos about Hillary’s sexuality, you are making Hillary’s critics look like sleazemongers and creating a backlash of sympathy for her.
Klein: That criticism raises the question of how are we to treat Hillary, we who do not want to see her as president? Do we treat her like a woman, with kid gloves? Do we back away from her sordid past? Do we avoid talking about personal issues because she’s a woman? Or do we treat her the way she claims she wants to be treated, as a good feminist, like anybody else, like you would treat a male candidate? If it’s okay to question John Kerry’s character, his past behavior, his marriages, his this and his that, then certainly the same thing applies to Hillary. We should not back away from dealing with her in a tough, direct fashion.
FPM: Excellent. Thank you so much, Mr. Klein.
Klein: It’s my pleasure, and it’s great talking to you.
To read Richard Poe's review of Edward Klein's The Truth About Hillary, click here.
Richard Poe is Investigative Editor for David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture, as well as Managing Editor of Horowitz's group blog Moonbat Central. He is a New York Times-bestselling author and journalist whose personal blog appears at RichardPoe.com. Poe's latest book is Hillary’s Secret War: The Clinton Conspiracy to Muzzle Internet Journalists.