Vast right-wing conspiracy: Wikis


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"Vast right-wing conspiracy" was a phrase used by then United States First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1998 in defense of her husband, President Bill Clinton, and his administration during the Lewinsky scandal, characterizing the Lewinsky charges as the latest in a long, organized, collaborative series of charges by Clinton's political enemies.[1] The term has been used since, including in 2009 to describe attacks on Barack Obama during his early presidency.


Earlier uses

While popularized by Mrs. Clinton in her 1998 interview, the phrase did not originate with her. In 1991 the Detroit News wrote:

Thatcher-era Britain produced its own crop of paranoid left-liberal films. ... All posited a vast right-wing conspiracy propping up a reactionary government ruthlessly crushing all efforts at opposition under the guise of parliamentary democracy.[2]

An AP story in 1995 also used the phrase, relating an official's guess that the Oklahoma City bombing was the work of "maybe five malcontents" and not "some kind of vast right-wing conspiracy."[3]

The Today Show interview

In response to ongoing accusations surrounding the Clintons' investment in a real estate development known as Whitewater in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno had appointed an independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, to investigate those accusations in 1994. With no apparent crime to prosecute there, Starr's investigation began to branch out into a variety of unrelated issues, from Filegate to Travelgate to allegations that Bill Clinton had an affair with Paula Jones prior to his presidency. White House intern Monica Lewinsky signed an affidavit that she had not had a relationship with Clinton, but Lewinsky's confidant Linda Tripp had been recording their phone conversations and offered Starr tapes of Lewinsky describing her feelings for, and alleging encounters with, the president. The president was asked to give a deposition, and accusations that he lied about an affair under oath first made national headlines on January 17, 1998, when the story was picked up by the conservative-right e-mail newsletter The Drudge Report. Despite swift denials from President Clinton, the media attention grew.

On January 27, 1998, Hillary Clinton appeared on NBC's The Today Show, in an interview with Matt Lauer.

Matt Lauer: "You have said, I understand, to some close friends, that this is the last great battle, and that one side or the other is going down here."
Hillary Clinton: "Well, I don't know if I've been that dramatic. That would sound like a good line from a movie. But I do believe that this is a battle. I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this — they have popped up in other settings. This is — the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president."

Clinton elaborated by decrying the tactics "and the kind of intense political agenda at work here". Bob Woodward recounts in his book The Agenda (1994) that the then-first lady recalled that when her husband was making his decision to run for the presidency in 1991, he reported receiving "a direct threat from someone in the Bush White House, warning that if he ran, the Republicans would go after him. 'We will do everything we can to destroy you personally,' she recalled that the Bush White House man had said."[1]

Later interpretations

David Brock, a conservative-turned-liberal pundit, has said he was once a part of an effort to dredge up a scandal against Clinton.[4] In 1993 Brock, then of the American Spectator, was the first to report Paula Jones' claims.[4] As Brock explained in Blinded by the Right, after learning more about the events and conservative payments surrounding Paula Jones he personally apologized to the Clintons. He documented his experience in Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative, wherein he alleged that Arkansas state troopers had taken money in exchange for testimony against Clinton which Brock had published in a previous book. Adam Curtis also discusses the concept in his documentary series The Power of Nightmares. Brock has confirmed Clinton's claim that there was a "Right wing conspiracy" to smear her husband, quibbling only with the characterization of it as "vast", since Brock contends that it was orchestrated mainly by a few powerful people.

Some analysts have identified the "vast right wing conspiracy" with a broader move by wealthy conservatives to use their economic power to establish an interlocking network of foundations that funded conservative scholarship, national and regional think tanks and advocacy groups, alternative media outlets, and conservative law firms through which they pushed their agenda to move the Republican Party to the right.[5] Paul Krugman supports this interpretation, concluding "Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy."[6]

Specific claims of such funding have been made against conservative Republican supporter and billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife.[7] Scaife played a major role in funding the Arkansas Project investigating President Clinton; former Clinton White House Counsel Lanny Davis claimed Scaife was using his money "to destroy a president of the United States." Scaife claims to be public about his political spending (q.v. [8]). CNN stated in a study the news outlet conducted on Scaife, "If it's a conspiracy, it's a pretty open one."[9]

Hillary Clinton said in her 2003 autobiography that, "Looking back, I see that I might have phrased my point more artfully, but I stand by the characterization of Starr's investigation [regardless of the truth about Lewinsky]."[10] By 2007 her experiences caused Clinton to say in presidential campaign appearances that the vast right-wing conspiracy was back, citing such cases as the 2002 New Hampshire Senate election phone jamming scandal.[11] On the stump for Al Franken's 2008 Senate campaign, Clinton acknowledged his Air America Radio show by quipping that he had been taking on the "vast right wing conspiracy before others even acknowledged that it existed".[12]

Former President Clinton, when asked on Meet the Press (September 27, 2009) whether the vast right wing conspiracy was involved in the attacks on President Barack Obama, said "Oh, you bet. Sure it is. It's not as strong as it was, because America's changed demographically, but it's as virulent as it was ... when they accused me of murder and all that stuff."[13]

Use in popular culture

After the Starr investigation revealed the Lewinsky affair, and precipitated a deposition wherein it was suggested that Bill Clinton may have committed perjury, some conservatives began to mock the VRWC phrase. Others took that mockery full circle to promote such a movement; in 2004, conservative lawyer Mark W. Smith wrote the New York Times Best Seller Official Handbook of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, which came with a "membership card" that made its owner an "official member of the VRWC." A number of entrepreneurs are selling VRWC merchandise. [14] Similarly, a number of newspaper, magazine, and website articles have used the phrase to report on left-wing politics.[15][16]


  1. ^ a b First Lady Launches Counterattack - Washington Post Accessed 2009-06-14
  2. ^ cited in Wayne Glawka, et al., "Among the New Words," American Speech 75 (2000): 430-446, at p. 444
  3. ^ Safire, William. Safire's Political Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Reporter Apologizes For Clinton Sex Article". CNN. March 10, 1998. Retrieved 2008-10-17.  
  5. ^ Media Transparency, The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations.
  6. ^ Paul R. Krugman, The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century, W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, pp. 217, 269-71. ISBN 0393326055
  7. ^ Media Transparency, Aggregated Grants from the Scaife Foundations.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Who Is Richard Mellon Scaife? - April 27, 1998
  10. ^ Living History, p. 446.
  11. ^ Clinton: Vast right-wing conspiracy is back, MSNBC/AP, March 13, 2007
  12. ^ "Hillary Clinton, Al Franken and the Return of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy" The Washington Post - The Trail October 21, 2008 By: Kane, Paul
  13. ^ Meet the Press, 21 Sept. 2009, transcript
  14. ^ member "vast right wing conspiracy" - Google Product Search
  15. ^ "Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy". The New York Times Magazine. 2004-07-25.  
  16. ^ "The Clinton-McFarland Connection: A vast left-wing conspiracy?".  

Further reading

Bellant, Russ (1991), The Coors Connection  
Metz, Allan (1999), "Right-wing opposition to Bill Clinton and his presidency: an annotated bibliography", Reference Services Review 27 (1): 13–61, doi:10.1108/00907329910260444  

External links



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