I’ve heard Hillary Clinton tell the story many times in speeches, and it rarely fails to bring a horrified gasp from the crowd: An uninsured and pregnant Ohio woman, working for minimum wage at a pizza parlor, is turned away from a hospital because she can’t come up with $100. The baby dies, and so does the woman. Clinton talks about how this woman haunts her, and how stories like this show the moral imperative–and the urgency–of fixing a badly broken health care system. (You can see a video here.)
Except, it turns out, it didn’t happen–at least, apparently, not the way Clinton said it did. There was indeed a tragedy last August in Athens, Ohio, in which a woman, Trina Bachtel, gave birth to a stillborn baby and subsequently died herself. But the New York Times reports this morning that the hospital involved says Bachtel had coverage,and received treatment. And here’s the remarkable part, given how important this story has become to the overall narrative of the Clinton candidacy:
Linda M. Weiss, a spokeswoman for the not-for-profit hospital, said the Clinton campaign had never contacted the hospital to check the accuracy of the story, which Mrs. Clinton had first heard from a Meigs County, Ohio, sheriff’s deputy in late February.
A Clinton spokesman, Mo Elleithee, said candidates would frequently retell stories relayed to them, vetting them when possible. “In this case, we did try but were not able to fully vet it,” Mr. Elleithee said. “If the hospital claims it did not happen that way, we respect that.”
Hillary Clinton is far from the first politician to find herself in this kind of embarrassing situation. Remember how hard Al Gore got hit after the first debate in 2000, when it turned out that in his description of the very real problem of overcrowded schools in Sarasota, Fla., he used the wrong verb tense in telling of children who were forced to stand in their classrooms?
What is astounding here is that for all the research that the Clinton campaign has done, scouring and scrubbing the opposition, they didn’t put a bit more effort into looking at what their own candidate is saying.