So I’ve seen this meme circulate in conservative circles, but it’s also been shared by some staunch Bernie supporters (she is still in a primary fight, after all), and I wanted to clear a few things up. Before I get started, I want to note that a majority of the information in this post was taken from a Snopes report on this meme. The report can be found here. Other sources are so linked within the post.
I am in no way defending Hillary Clinton. I am certainly not a fan of hers, and I resent that in November we will likely be choosing between two of the worst candidates to run for president in recent American history. I am also not defending the man in question, who I don’t doubt was guilty of this heinous crime. This is not a pro-Hillary or anti-Hillary post, and I’m only sharing this because I like to deal in reality and facts. This meme has been widely circulated, but its accuracy and truthfulness are very muddled (gee, something on the Internet that isn’t entirely true. Who would’ve thought that could happen?). Regardless of who I (or you) support or don’t support in this election, I have always believed that our opinions and views should be grounded in reality and facts. This meme, along with many others I’ve seen so far this election cycle, is not completely factual, and it misrepresents the circumstances and the case in question.
There are just a few things that really bother me about this. For one, it’s incredibly skewed and oversimplified in order to evoke some kind of anger or hatred from whomever reads it, and that is exactly what’s wrong with the media landscape today. But that’s another rant for another day. My point is that I don’t care if someone wants to share a meme or some other form of information about a candidate’s history or things they’ve done or said. But if it isn’t true, or if it’s skewed enormously in one direction to achieve a specific political goal, then it isn’t a viable piece of information for voters to use in their decision-making process. I think we need to be mindful of that as we head into what could be one of the nastiest general election campaigns in modern American history.
So right off the bat, it’s worth noting that the photo of the girl in the meme is not a photo of the actual victim in the 1975 case. It’s just a stock photo of a girl crying (to add that extra spice of emotion and pull at your heartstrings). Seriously, go to Google and type in “girl crying” under images. This photo is not only on the first page of results, it’s near the top of the list. You can even see the copyright information up the right side of the photo. I understand that there probably isn’t a photo of the actual victim, and it would be an incredibly immoral invasion of privacy for whomever made this meme to dig one up and use it without her consent. But the first sentence uses “I” as if the girl in the photo is the victim. This is sort of a gray area of false reporting (if you can call a meme “reporting”), but it speaks to the overall dishonesty of the meme.
Let’s move on to the second sentence: “Hillary Clinton volunteered to be his lawyer.” There are conflicting reports on this claim, and Clinton herself has said that she didn’t volunteer. Multiple sources have confirmed that, at the time, she was very reluctant to take the case, and she even asked Washington County prosecutor Mahlon Gibson if there was any way he could get her removed from the case. Gibson is on the record as saying she was very opposed to representing this man. She reportedly contacted the judge, who refused her request to be removed. We can argue all day about her willingness to take the case, but we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone involved at the time who would say that she “volunteered” to represent a rapist.
The next line accuses that Clinton “told the judge that I made up the rape story because I enjoyed fantasizing about older men.” This is reportedly to have happened “in court.” The first problem with that claim is that this case never went to trial, so it was never presented “in court.” Clinton also never accused the victim of making up the story or fantasizing about rape. A sworn affidavit from Clinton (above) does claim, based on evidence presented to her, that the victim was “emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing.” I abhor victim-shaming in rape cases, and I am bothered by Clinton’s statement, but it’s a stretch to say that she accused the victim of fantasizing about rape.
“Hillary got my rapist freed” is probably one of the most inaccurate parts of this entire meme. The man wasn’t freed; he entered a plea deal, served a year in prison, and was on probation for an additional four years after his release. Should he have served longer? Of course he should’ve. He’s a rapist, and his punishment was not befitting of the heinousness of the crime he committed. But “got my rapist freed” is just incorrect, and we need to recognize that. Granted, I don’t think the meme would be nearly as powerful if it said “Hillary got my rapist to enter a plea deal to serve prison time,” because the image of a rapist walking away from a crime unscathed is much more angering.
Now, on to that “1980 interview” where Clinton “admitted she knew he was guilty. And she laughed about it.” It is true that in 1980, Clinton was interviewed by Roy Reed, a journalist, who asked among other things about her time practicing law. Clinton spoke about this case, and at one point in the recorded interview, she can be heard laughing. However, she appears to laugh after she says “he took a lie detector test! I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs.” Clinton never “admitted she knew he was guilty,” and she laughed about the unreliability of polygraph testing, not about getting an accused rapist out of a long prison sentence. In reality, if she had admitted his guilt, she would’ve been in legal trouble for violating attorney-client privilege. This is classic political spin, and it is reprehensible.
Of course the meme finishes up by saying that “Hillary Clinton is an advocate for rapists. Not for women or children,” which just ties the grossly incorrect and skewed story up with a nice pretty bow of negativity toward Clinton. I’m not particularly fond of her past remarks on women, including the comment in 1992 about “staying home and baking cookies” instead of helping her husband campaign for public office. But I do not doubt that Hillary Clinton is an advocate for womens’ issues. She has made a commitment during this campaign to openly and repeatedly talk about the necessity of things like early childhood education, paid family and maternity leave, womens’ reproductive rights, and pay equity. You may disagree with her policy proposals or comments she’s made in the past, and I completely understand having those reservations. But to say that she is not an advocate for women or children is hardly a substantial claim.
Even more disturbing is that the meme I’ve been talking about is often accompanied by the photo above, which supposedly shows a quote from a 1982 interview, in which Clinton apparently shrugs off her role in getting a rapist off with a light sentence as if she doesn’t care in the slightest about rape victims. After countless hours of research, I couldn’t find one single shred of evidence that Clinton ever said this. What’s more, it was listed in a PolitiFact article along with several other Clinton internet quotes that are just entirely made up. The bottom line is that she never said these words, and it is completely fabricated to further support the narrative that the first meme puts forth.
If you’ve made it this far, I commend you on your commitment to the truth, even if the truth is much less offensive and abrasive than the doctored nonsense that we see on a daily basis. Unfortunately, in this age of content abundance, too many of us fall victim to misinformation that we accept as truth because it supports some preexisting bias or animosity toward an individual or an issue. I am guilty of that myself. So while this post was time-consuming both for me to write and for you to read, consider this: I wrote over 1,300 words about a meme that I saw shared on Facebook. The amount of misinformation packed into eight sentences and a copyrighted photo should concern you. To wrap this whole thing up, I just have a suggestion. You can ignore it or follow it or call me a crazy (insert political slur here), but I at least want you to read it.
Think about the political perspectives and ideas that you see and hear about on a daily basis. Think about what you see on social media and TV and what you hear on the radio or read about in the newspapers. Don’t just accept that something must be true because it wouldn’t surprise you to learn that so-and-so politician did this or such-and-such bill includes that provision because it came from someone with a D or an R in front of their name. Don’t give in to cynicism. Don’t feed your own distaste for someone or some position on an issue by accepting lies as truth. Think outside the box. If you see something that sounds outrageous, do your own research before you just accept it as true without any confirmation. We are the vehicles of misinformation, and if we point out errors and spin and lies when we see them, fewer people will be influenced by fabricated political fluff. We always complain that our voters are very poorly educated on the issues, but that education starts with the voters themselves. Be a better voter. Inform yourself with truth and facts and reliable information. That’s the first step. Take it.