AP WAS THERE: Clinton takes questions on Whitewater in 1994

AP News
Posted: Mar 10, 2015 1:09 PM
AP WAS THERE: Clinton takes questions on Whitewater in 1994

EDITOR'S NOTE: Hillary Rodham Clinton has a long history of difficult relations with the media. In a news conference on April 22, 1994, the then-first lady answered questions about the Clintons' investment in a failed land deal known as Whitewater and her own lucrative commodities trades.

Clinton turned conciliatory that day and blamed herself for being "less understanding than I needed to of the press and the public's interest." She said that after aggressively trying to protect her zone of privacy, "I've been rezoned."

Now the presumed front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton is facing criticism over her use of a private email account when she was secretary of state, sidestepping the government email system. The AP is making available its original report on Clinton's 1994 news conference.


WASHINGTON (AP) — In a conciliatory appearance before the press, Hillary Rodham Clinton blamed her own efforts to protect her privacy for allowing questions about the Whitewater land deal to spiral.

The first lady invited reporters into the State Dining Room on Friday to take any question put to her in an hour-plus appearance carried live on all the major television networks.

With a wry smile, her elbow perched on the side of a chair, Mrs. Clinton told reporters that, after aggressively trying to protect her zone of privacy, "I've been rezoned." She added that questions and confusion over the Clintons' financial dealings were "our responsibility."

Her sense of privacy, she said, "led me to perhaps be less understanding than I needed to of the press and the public's interest - as well as right - to know things about my husband and me."

She blamed it on "our inexperience in Washington, if you will, that I really did not fully understand everything that I wish now I had known."

With self-deprecating style, she added later, "Maybe I'm slow in kind of picking up subtle and not-so-subtle messages. But for me, it was an evolutionary process."

Mrs. Clinton coolly gave some very detailed answers to questions about the Clintons' investment in the failed Whitewater land deal and her own lucrative commodities trades, but broke little new ground. On several occasions, she said she didn't recall the details of financial arrangements that were questioned, leaving some issues still unresolved.

She defended her commodities trades as legitimate investments and denied receiving any preferential treatment. She acknowledged getting detailed advice from James Blair, a close friend who was counsel to Tyson Foods Inc. in Arkansas. But she said it had no effect on how state regulators treated Tyson when her husband was governor.

And she insisted the final investment decisions - and the monetary risks - were her own in her commodities trading, which netted her $100,000 on an initial investment of $1,000.

"I took the risk," she said. "I was the one who made the decision."

Mrs. Clinton said there was no hypocrisy in her husband speaking strongly against what he labled the greed of in the 1980s and the couple using investments to provide for their family.

"I was raised by a father who had me reading the stock tables when I was a little girl," she said, adding that investments and risk are the "heart and soul of the American economy."

She expressed confidence that all questions about the Whitewater deal would be resolved favorably, saying, "It keeps getting beat like the deadest horse it is, over and over again."

It was a rare day at the White House, the first lady's press conference delayed when an earlier presidential appearance began late, a subsequent Clinton appearance delayed by the first lady's session with reporters.

Asked about his wife's performance, Clinton flashed a thumbs-up and said she did "great."

Calmly fielding question after question about her financial dealings, Mrs. Clinton joked easily with the press and seemed at ease.

She choked up only once, when asked how Richard Nixon would be remembered and if her experiences made her more sympathetic to the trials of the Nixon White House.

Recalling her feelings when her own father died last year, Mrs. Clinton replied, "What I think we ought to be doing is praying for President Nixon. ... I'm just mostly thinking about his daughters right now."

Mrs. Clinton saddened as she fielded questions about the suicide of White House deputy counsel Vince Foster, a close friend, wondering aloud "whether if I had called him, I could have picked up a clue" that he was despondent.

She said she'd been inspired to meet with the press after reading that Eleanor Roosevelt had 340 press conferences while her husband was president. Of course, those were open only to women.

"I don't think you'd let me get away with that today," she quipped.