It’s rare for Politifact to weigh in on the contents of an Internet meme, but a new graphic just won the not-so-coveted Mostly False rating, for totally mischaracterizing gifts received by President Clinton and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton when she was First Lady of the United States. That didn’t stop House Republicans from investigating, and as usual, finding no wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons (do they ever???). The results, according to the Pulitzer winning fact checkers:
A viral graphic said that Hillary Clinton was forced to return about $200,000 worth of furniture, artwork and china that she had stolen from the White House. The statement contains several inaccuracies.
The Clintons returned about $48,000 in furniture, and they paid the government about $86,000 for other items. Any way you count it, the $200,000 figure is too high.
According to top ethics lawyers, it’s at least debatable — and at worst hyperbolic — to say the Clintons “stole” the items. A congressional investigation found poor tracking of ownership and final disposition of gifts, which makes it hard to speak definitively of wrongdoing. In fact, two items the Clintons returned were ultimately sent back to them. Finally, it’s worth making clear that the “force” they responded to was political pressure, not legal jeopardy.
Accusations of stealing are serious and require a high threshold of evidence, unmet by the charges in this over-the-top graphic. We rate the claim Mostly False.
There you have it. This is is nothing but the usual Republican overreach to try and smear the Clinton family. Is there any issue too small for a congressional investigation by Republicans? The Clintons were given $190,000 in gifts over an eight year period, mostly golf clubs and furniture for the Oval Office. Most government employees aren’t allowed to accept gifts, but those rules are different for the head of the Executive Branch:
The problem was, Mittman and a few others included on the list said they never intended their gifts to go to the Clintons. They thought they were donating to the White House itself as part a major remodeling project in 1993.
This is where the questions of provenance get muddy. Some gifts are intended for the government, and must stay in the government’s hands, while some are intended for the person living in the White House. But it’s not always as simple as “this is mine” and “that is Uncle Sam’s.”
Within about two weeks of the publication of the Post article, public criticism escalated, and the Clintons announced that they would pay the government nearly $86,000 for items that were actually government property. A few days after that, they also returned about $48,000 worth of furniture (including the sofas, chair and ottoman from Mittman).
Add that up and the government got back $134,000 out of the $190,000 the Clinton’s had declared as gifts. But as an indication of how hard it is to determine ownership, the National Park Service, which oversees the White House property, later returned a chair and an ottoman to the Clintons.
As usual, the Internet picked up a Republican talking point and presented it as fact. Sadly, House Republicans behave in the very same way when it comes to investigating their political enemies, and never, EVER investigate or stop wrongdoing by their own party.
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition