False facts about the Clintons you always thought were true

When it comes to politics, the rumor mill is always running at full-speed—particularly when it concerns national political figures. In this regard, the lives of Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton are no exception. Ever since Bill's presidency, rumor-mongers have been spinning the truth like a top to affect popular opinion. With all the fake news swirling around, it's sometimes hard to separate the truth from unadulterated fiction. Let's take a look at some circulating Clinton "facts" that are actually hoaxes in disguise.

Hillary sat on the board of Monsanto

In 2014, a rumor began that Hillary had been a board member at agriculture biotech giant Monsanto. Those rumors were often repeated by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders during his campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president. The claim gained popularity primarily because it supported the view of Democratic rival Hillary as a corporate shill who was in the pocket of big money interests.

Despite the popularity of this tale, it's not true. Hillary sat on the board of the Arkansas-based Wal-Mart from 1986 to 1992, but she does not and has never served in a similar capacity with Monsanto. Monsanto is listed as a past donor to the Clinton Foundation, giving between $1 and $5 million, but it has not directly donated to her political campaign. Hillary has utilized the campaign advising services of one Jerry Crawford—a political lawyer and lobbyist, whose firm lists Monsanto among its clients. Another Monsanto lobbyist, former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, was rumored to be a "top contender" for U.S. agriculture secretary if Hillary won the White House, reported The Washington Post. Despite these connections, there is no evidence Clinton was a board member for Monsanto.

Bill fathered a love child with a prostitute

In another blast from the past, this '90s gossip piece started making the rounds again when the Daily Mail and Info Wars used tabloid necromancy to resurrect this rumor from the dead. The claim alleges Bill fathered a child with a prostitute in the '80s. The supposed mother, Bobbie Ann Williams, stated her case to the tabloids in 1992, as Bill geared up for his presidential campaign.

Williams alleges she met Bill in 1984 while he was jogging in Little Rock, Ark., and the then-governor paid her $200 to have sex with him behind some bushes. She claims they met for sex on several subsequent occasions and she soon became pregnant. Nine months later, son Danney Williams (who now goes by the last name "Williams-Clinton") was born.

According to the Daily Mail, the tabloid The Star conducted a paternity test in 1999 that indicated Bill could not be Danney's dad, but the self-proclaimed love child, who turned 31 in 2016, has stuck to his story. As of November 2016, Danney's supposed "best friend" is promoting a GoFundMe campaign to raise $100,000 "for legal representation and a modest social media campaign to keep the American people informed about the facts in this case and ongoing struggle for justice."

Chelsea makes $900,000 a year from her parents' foundation

The most believable fake news stories have a small grain of truth. In 2016, a rumor asserted the Clinton Foundation had paid Chelsea $900,000 annually since 2011. Detractors of the Clintons used the story to claim rampant corruption within the foundation, and the claim spread like wildfire.

After Chelsea received her master's degree from Columbia University in 2010, she became a special correspondent with NBC the following year. Her contract with the network reportedly paid $600,000 annually until 2014, when Chelsea left NBC to reportedly focus on her philanthropic work as the vice chairwoman of the Clinton Foundation. Chelsea also serves on the board of media company InterActiveCorp (IAC), earning another $300,000 a year in salary and stock options.

According to Clinton Foundation tax documents from 2014, Chelsea spent approximately 35 hours a week working for the foundation or related entities and was not paid anything for her work, so while it is true that she work for her parents' foundation, and it is true that she made about $900,000 a year between 2011 and 2014 from her other jobs, the rumor that conflates these two facts is completely false.

Hillary slept through the Benghazi attacks

On multiple occasions during the presidential campaign in 2016, Donald Trump claimed Hillary slept through the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11 2012, while she was U.S. Secretary of State. "Among the victims was our late Ambassador Chris Stevens. I mean what she did with him was absolutely horrible. He was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed—that's right, when the phone rang at 3 o'clock in the morning, she was sleeping," Trump said (via Politico) in a June 2016 speech in New York City. In April 2015, Sen. Rand Paul made a reference to the supposed snooze during an appearance on CNN's State of the Union, while Sen. Lindsey Graham Tweeted this to Clinton in September 2015: "Where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack?"

Despite these claims, the House Select Committee on Benghazi confirmed Hillary did not hit the hay as the chaos unfolded. The attack at the ambassador's compound in Benghazi began around 9:42 p.m., which was actually 3:42 p.m. in Washington, D.C. At the time, Hillary was reportedly at her office. She stated in her memoir, Hard Choices, and also testified before Congress that she worked late into the night from her home and did not sleep. She released a public statement seven hours after the start of the attack and sent at least two emails after 11 p.m.—one to her daughter, and another to State Department officials. Additionally, none of the seven different probes into the Benghazi attack uncovered that Hillary was under the covers on the job.

Bill was pardoned for felony draft dodging

A viral email from 2002 claims draft records show Bill committed a federal felony by avoiding the Vietnam draft, went AWOL as a fugitive, and was pardoned by President Jimmy Carter. This story has continued to circulate on conservative web forums, social media, and blogs for many years.

In 1977, Carter did issue a presidential pardon to hundreds of thousands of men charged with violating draft laws. Bill was outspoken against the war and the draft, but he was never drafted, never charged with a felony, never went AWOL, and never pardoned.

Regarding Bill's eligibility for the draft, he was reportedly covered by student deferments while attending graduate school and serving as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He then joined the University of Arkansas R.O.T.C., though he later wrote a letter to its director admitting he "had no interest in the ROTC program in itself" and believed "R.O.T.C. was the one way left in which I could possibly, but not positively, avoid both Vietnam and resistance."

Hillary freed a rapist and laughed at his victim

A rape case from Hillary's time as an attorney gained a lot of attention during the 2016 election cycle. The false narrative claims Hillary volunteered to defend a rapist, and attacked the character of the 12-year-old victim in order to free her client, later laughing about it. There's a lot of misinformation here, so let's break it down.

In 1975, a 27-year-old Hillary was assigned (involuntarily) to defend an indigent man accused of rape. The defendant requested a female lawyer for his case. Hillary, who was running a legal aid clinic at the time, was appointed by the judge to be the defendant's counsel, reported Newsday in a thorough probe of the case. Court documents show that as part of Hillary's defense, she requested the alleged victim undergo a psychiatric exam to assess her "mental attitudes prior to trial." According to Newsday, Hillary "questioned the sixth-grader's honesty and claimed she had made false accusations in the past. She implied that the girl often fantasized and sought out 'older men' like Taylor."

Legal experts say Hillary behaved ethically and was doing her job as a defense attorney. Andrew Schepard, director of Hofstra Law School's Center for Children, Families and the Law, told Newsday that Hillary "was vigorously advocating for her client. What she did was appropriate," adding, "He was lucky to have her as a lawyer…In terms of what's good for the little girl? It would have been hell on the victim. But that wasn't Hillary's problem."

Shaky testimony, combined with doubts about physical evidence, allowed Hillary to secure a deal on a lesser charge for her client, who pleaded guilty—he wasn't "freed"— as many versions of this story claim.

When audio of a 1980s interview with Hillary surfaced on YouTube, it spurred accusations that she knew he was guilty and laughed about it. Hillary does chuckle occasionally during the interview when discussing ironic elements about the case. For example, evidence that normally should have helped the prosecution was actually harming it—such as the polygraph test that her client passed. She also laughed when remembering how the prosecution tried to stonewall her defense by trying to withhold evidence. At no point does Hillary say or imply she knew her client was "guilty," nor does she laugh at the victim or laugh about the outcome of the case.

Chelsea's husband is the nephew of George Soros

When Hillary became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in the summer of 2016, several rumors and fake stories about her daughter, Chelsea, emerged. For example, actor and Trump supporter Scott Baio claimed in a Facebook post that Chelsea's husband is the nephew of controversial Democratic billionaire George Soros, and that the couple wed at Soros' mansion. Like many of the other false "facts" on our list, this one has no basis in reality.

Chelsea married investment banker Marc Mezvinsky in July 2010 at Astor Courts, an estate in Rhinebeck, N.Y. While the venue is gorgeous and includes a mansion, it is not owned by Soros. Speaking of Soros, George only had one sibling, an elder brother named Peter, who passed away in 2013. Peter had two children, sons named Peter and Jeffrey Soros.

Mezvinsky is the son of former U.S. Rep. Edward Mezvinsky and Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky. Marc has only one uncle—Norton Mezvinsky—who once complained to the New York Daily News that he felt slighted that he, as "Marc's only uncle," wasn't invited to the wedding. Case closed.

Hillary was fired from the Watergate investigation

Have you heard the one about a 27-year-old Hillary being fired from the House Judiciary Committee's Watergate Investigation by Chief Democratic Counsel Jerry Zeifman?

Clinton was one of dozens of attorneys hired to work on the Watergate investigation. She was not canned by Zeifman, though he was quoted saying, "If I had the power to fire her, I would have fired her."

According to The Washington Post, "Zeifman's specific beef with Clinton is rather obscure. It mostly concerns his dislike of a brief that she wrote" under the direction of others he disliked "which would have denied Nixon the right to counsel as the committee investigated whether to recommend impeachment." Zeifman disagreed with that viewpoint, but there's no evidence Clinton even agreed with it herself. She was arguably just doing her job as a recent graduate from Yale Law School. The Post fact checker gave this popular meme a "four Pinocchios," meaning it's a whopper.

Chelsea is not Bill's daughter

This lurid conspiracy theory of questionable paternity dates back to Bill's years in the White House between 1993 and 2001, but more recently, it's been fertilized by Trump's friend and adviser, Roger Stone, Jr. The tale alleges Bill was infertile due to a childhood bout of measles, and a former Clinton associate named Webster Hubbell fathered Chelsea. Furthermore, Stone claims in his 2015 book, The Clintons' War on Women, that Chelsea had extensive plastic surgery in order to look more like Bill.

In the book, co-authored by Stone and conservative Texas politician Robert Morrow, the "proof"—such as it is—mainly stems from the allegations of Larry Nichols, a conspiracy theorist and former Arkansas employee who was fired by then-Gov. Bill Clinton. For many years, Nichols has been at the heart of multiple Clinton conspiracy theories, from Nicaraguan drug smuggling to the Clinton "body count" (which we'll cover later in this article.) Nichols even claimed in 2013 that he'd served as a hitman for the Clintons, but later recanted that story, explaining that he'd been under the influence of painkillers when he made that statement. Morrow has a rather dubious history himself, which includes many vulgar public comments which we can't repeat here. To summarize, the sources of this claim are questionable.

While Hubbell was an associate of the Clintons in the '70s and '80s, there's no evidence he is Chelsea's father—other than Nichols' claim that Bill told him so. Photos showing Chelsea and Hubbell side-by-side are often cherry-picked for effect. Hubbell has not publicly commented on the allegations.

As for the plastic surgery allegations, there's also no proof any procedures took place, and "before and after" photos—sometimes dated more than a decade apart—don't demonstrate any dramatic or unusual transformation.

The Clinton 'body count'

Since Bill's presidency, various lists of dead Clinton associates have been circulating online, perpetuating a myth that Bill and Hillary have been quietly murdering people for decades—particularly those who might have incriminating information on them. Remember conspiracy theorist and erstwhile "hitman" Nichols? He and the Rev. Jerry Falwell promoted a crime documentary in 1994 called The Clinton Chronicles which asserted this idea (among others.) Some media outlets added to the unsubstantiated list during Hillary's presidential campaign in 2016.

The "body count" phenomenon is not new, nor is it limited to the Clintons. The Bush family is dogged by its own versions of the death list conspiracy theory, and another list of deaths related to the JFK assassination has been around for decades. Most of the deaths "connected" to the Clintons are either not suspicious or involve people who weren't associated with the family. In some cases, the "victim" never even existed. If you want a full rundown debunking this body counts, check out this in-depth Snopes article on the topic.

Hillary is a secret conservative

This item is more of a statement of opinion than a rumor or fake news story. It gained significant traction during Hillary's second campaign for president, particularly from editorials and blogs that sought to negatively compare her to Democratic primary opponent Sanders, but when you examine the facts behind Hillary's opinions and policies, this claim just doesn't hold water. If you compare the voting records of Sens. Sanders and Clinton, they actually voted the same way 93 percent of the time, according to The Washington Post. Additionally, during her time in Congress, data shows that Clinton's voting record made her the 11th most liberal senator in the chamber, with her score placing her to the left of Harry Reid, Joe Biden, Patrick Leahy, and even then-Sen. Barack Obama.

Don't fall for fake news

In the internet era, starting a rumor is as easy as posting a fake story or meme on a popular blog or sharing it via social media. The problems with false news going viral became evident during the 2016 election cycle, when bogus stories spread at an unprecedented rate. According to a BuzzFeed analysis, "top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined." One fake news purveyor even went public about how easy it is to create false viral facts.

Want to avoid getting fooled again? Melissa Zimdars, a professor of media and communication at Merrimack College, created a document with tips and tricks for spotting fake or unreliable news. While you should always do your own research when possible, there are some digital tools that can help you along the way. Check out browser extensions such as "B.S. Detector" or "Fake News Alert," or use an app such as the one made by Pulitzer Prize-winner Politifact to do your own verifying on the fly.

Good luck! It's a jungle out there.