WASHINGTON - Former President Clinton has added to the falsehoods surrounding his wife's tale of her trip to Bosnia 12 years ago.
In Indiana on Thursday, Bill Clinton defended his wife's mistake in claiming that she landed under sniper fire in Bosnia, accusing the media of treating her like "she'd robbed a bank" for confusing the facts.
The New York senator had repeatedly described a harrowing scene in Tuzla, Bosnia, in which she and her daughter, Chelsea, had to run for cover as soon as they landed for a visit in 1996. Video footage of the day instead showed a peaceful reception in which an 8-year-old girl greeted the first lady.
Hillary Clinton has acknowledged that she got the facts wrong in retelling the tale. Bill Clinton's inaccuracies don't involve long-ago memories, but misstatements about how his wife has handled the story.
"A lot of the way this whole campaign has been covered has amused me," Bill Clinton said in Boonville, Ind. "But there was a lot of fulminating because Hillary, one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated and immediately apologized for it, what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995.
"Did y'all see all that? Oh, they blew it up," the former president continued. "Let me just tell you. The president of Bosnia and Gen. Wesley Clark — who was there making peace where we'd lost three peacekeepers who had to ride on a dangerous mountain road because it was too dangerous to go the regular, safe way — both defended her because they pointed out that when her plane landed in Bosnia, she had to go up to the bulletproof part of the plane, in the front. Everybody else had to put their flak jackets underneath the seat in case they got shot at. And everywhere they went they were covered by Apache helicopters. So they just abbreviated the arrival ceremony.
"Now I say that because what really has mattered is that even then she was interested in our troops," he said. "And I think she was the first first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to go into a combat zone. And you would of thought, you know, that she'd robbed a bank the way they all carried on about this. And some of them when they're 60 they'll forget something when they're tired at 11 o'clock at night, too."
Bill Clinton has many of the facts wrong.
His wife didn't make the sniper fire claim "one time late at night when she was exhausted." She actually told the story several times, including during prepared remarks on foreign policy delivered the morning of March 17.
It's also not true that she "immediately apologized for it." Clinton has never apologized for the comments and only acknowledged that she "misspoke" a week after the March 17 speech when video of her peaceful tarmac reception emerged.
It's also not true that she was the "first first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to go into a combat zone" — a claim that Hillary Clinton has also made when talking about the trip. Pat Nixon traveled to Saigon during the Vietnam war and Barbara Bush went to Saudi Arabia two months before the launching of Desert Storm.
The trip also was not in 1995, but 1996.
Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer responded to the former president's remarks Friday by saying, "Senator Clinton appreciates her husband standing up for her, but this was her mistake and she takes responsibility for it."
She's also told her husband to quit talking about it.
"Hillary called me and said 'You don't remember this. You weren't there, let me handle it.' I said, 'Yes ma'am,'" Bill Clinton, who was in Indiana campaigning for his wife Friday, told reporters.
By Nedra Pickler