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More Controversy Over Hillary Clinton's Book

Aired June 12, 2003 - 19:20   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in case you didn't know, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, she wrote a new book. Yes. It's out this week. Anyway, I'm sure you've heard about it. We've been talking about it for quite a lot of days now. It's been a big hit at the bookstores, if not with all the critics.
One particular critic has caught our eye. Dick Morris was, of course, a long time political adviser to both Clintons. That's him there on the right.

But in a letter to the "National Review" magazine, he disputes the senator's description of why he became estranged from them and why he didn't want to help with the 1994 midterm elections, when voters repudiated the Clintons' policies and gave Republicans control of Congress.

Morris writes the real reason he was reluctant to work with the Clintons is, and I quote, "Bill Clinton had tried to beat me up in May of 1990 as he, you, Gloria Cabe and I were together in the Arkansas governor's mansion. At the time, Bill was worried that he was falling behind his Democratic primary opponent and verbally assaulted me for not giving his campaign the time he felt it deserved. Offended by his harsh tone, I turned, I stalked out of the room. He ran after me, tackled me, threw me to the floor of the kitchen in the mansion and cocked his fist back to punch me. You grabbed his arm and, yelling at him to stop and get control of himself, pulled him off me."

Juicy story, huh?

Who better to ask about it than our own senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Bill, when you first read this, what did you think?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought it came out of the book "Primary Colors." Remember that book, published by the anonymous Joe Klein a few years ago? It sounded like it was just too good to be true.

COOPER: It definitely, it sounds like something out of a movie. And yet this is really not the first time this story has surfaced. I think it was in "Time" magazine back in like 1996.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. Eric Pooley reported it, a version of it, slightly different, in "Time" magazine, which I have right here, where he adds a couple of details. He interviewed Dick Morris for that article and he said that Morris told him at that time, this is just after he left the White House in a scandal at the -- that broke at the 1996 convention, where Morris was caught with a prostitute at the Jefferson Hotel, who had listened in on his phone calls with the president and he was forced to resign from the White House.

But at that time he told "Time" magazine that he, this particular incident with Clinton, that he had said, "I'm leaving, I'm going to go to work for your Republican opponent, Sheffield Nelson," and that's when Clinton got angry, came up, Morris said, and tackled him. But at that point, in 1996, Morris told the "Time" magazine reporter a security guard separated them. Morris said he went back to his hotel and Hillary called him at dawn the next day and said, "You've got to come back. He only does this to those he loves."

A very interesting comment.

COOPER: Yes, it's very interesting.

Let's show that, part of that excerpt from the letter again today where, you know, basically he says that Clinton tackled him, threw back his arm -- I don't really want to read through the whole thing -- but we'll just skip ahead to the part where he gets tackled, he turns, he stalks out of the room. The next graphic, "Bill ran after me, he tackled me, he threw me to the floor of the kitchen," imagine it, "cocked his fist back to punch me. You grabbed his arm yelling at him to stop and get control."

Now, I understand also in that "Time" article there were two different other versions that apparently Clinton had told people, one where he said he slapped Dick Morris, the other where he simply twisted him around.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. Clinton is reported to have told an interviewer, according to "Time" magazine, that he grabbed Dick Morris by the shoulders and turned him around but didn't threaten to punch him and he also told another politician at one point that he slapped Dick Morris. Dick denied that particular version.

So there are several, as you might expect, different versions of this. And in a newsletter published by John Doolittle, I believe this was last year, he said that Clinton, Morris told him Clinton started to apologize after just a moment and, "I stormed out of the mansion with Hillary walking me around the grounds consoling me."

So yet another version.

COOPER: Well, I guess...

SCHNEIDER: So it appears something happened.

COOPER: I guess we're going to have to wait for the 2005 Bill Clinton memoir to maybe hear his official version of this.

Why do you think Dick Morris wrote this letter now? I mean it's very public, a public letter. SCHNEIDER: Yes, because Hillary Rodham Clinton is having a very good week with her book. It's a best seller. A lot of people are talking about her as a potential presidential candidate.

COOPER: What, is he bitter, just waiting to spill it?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, exactly. He's been a critic of Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton for some years now, ever since he left the White House. He always had a kind of love/hate relationship with the Clintons. He worked for a lot of Republicans at the same time he worked for the Clintons. And he was once described as being the dark side of Bill Clinton. They had a very difficult and complicated relationship.

But he has been trashing them for years. He writes a column for the "New York Post." He was not a Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter when she ran for the Senate from New York, which is where he, I believe, lives and writes. He may live in Connecticut. But he wasn't a supporter of hers for the Senate.

So he appears to be trying to grab a little of the spotlight and tarnish her by saying that she told an untruth in her depiction of this incident.

COOPER: Yes, all right, Bill Schneider, thanks for the update.

Appreciate you joining us.



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