Originally Published: July 21, 2005 5 a.m.
Edward Klein's "The Truth About Hillary," a short, biting biography of Hillary Clinton that dwells on her radical politics and worst character traits, has rocketed to the top of best-sellers lists.
But liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Clinton allies and his fellow journalists have blasted Klein for everything from committing factual errors to being a tool of the vast right-wing conspiracy.
I talked to Klein – a political independent – by telephone from Washington:
Q: Tina Brown, your old boss at Vanity Fair, called your book "bio-porn." You've been accused of recycling old, unsubstantiated rumors. How do you defend yourself?
A: I don't feel I need to defend myself. My career and my record speak for themselves. I was the foreign editor of Newsweek magazine and the editor in chief of The New York Times magazine. I've been a journalist for more than 40 years. I've written four New York Times best-sellers (including "The Kennedy Curse") … I'm a very experienced journalist who's dealt with people on the Left and people on the Right, people on the record, people off the record. I know how to be a journalist.
Q: What about charges your footnotes lead back to people who were quoting unnamed or uncorroborated sources?
A: Well, that's simply in most cases not true. And in cases where it is true, I double-checked by searching the source out myself. But many of my footnotes refer to books by first-class journalists like Gail Sheehy, Roger Morris, David Maraniss, all of whom are highly regarded in their field.
Q: You make no pretense of objectivity. You are pretty tough on Hillary and her friends and the Clintons in general. You're obviously coming at this with a point of view.
A: I'm a biographer. I'm a biographer who assembles his facts and then draws conclusions from those facts. I'm not writing a newspaper story that pretends to be balanced. This is my view of a life, of a character, of a person who wants to be president of the United States. Somebody said to me, "This isn't beanbag. This is serious business." This is a woman who has a serious intention of running for president. And if so, we need to take her very seriously and look at her very long and hard and treat her the way we would treat any candidate, male or female, who's running for president.
Q: Why is it that conservatives like John Podhoretz and Bill O'Reilly are treating you like you're radioactive and dismissing you and your book?
A: First of all, I'm not a member of the conservative inner circle. I'm a journalist who is considered a mainstream journalist, not a right-wing journalist, so, as such, I'm an outsider and they are treating me as such.
I think there is a good deal of resentment and jealousy on the part of my friend John Podhoretz, who never revealed the fact when he criticized me that he is under contract to write a book about Hillary Clinton (laughs). And so is Dick Morris writing a book about Hillary. Everybody is writing a book about Hillary. There's jealousy that I got out first but the book is doing very well.
Q: We already knew that Hillary is ambitious, cold, leftist, ruthless, wily and hangs around with lesbians. We knew her husband is a philanderer – so what's new in your book?
A: There are a lot of things. One is that I talk about Hillary and Bill doing drugs at Yale Law School, which never has been discussed before.
I talk about the fact that Hillary knew about Monica Lewinsky two years before the country learned of it and then pretended that she didn't know.
I talk about Hillary's falling out with Daniel Patrick Moynihan and how Pat Moynihan and his wife Elizabeth did not like Hillary – in fact, despised her.
So there's a good deal that's new. There's certainly a new insight into Hillary and how her politics were shaped by her experience of radical feminism and political lesbianism at Wellesley College, something that has caused a lot of people consternation, but is demonstrably true.