Caught in a Falsehood, Clinton Takes a Page from the Trump Playbook
Policy + Politics

Caught in a Falsehood, Clinton Takes a Page from the Trump Playbook

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Hillary Clinton was caught in a falsehood over the weekend, claiming that the terror group ISIS is using videos of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump calling for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. as a recruiting tool. And after media jumped all over her for it, she came up with a response that was worthy of Trump himself.

There is no evidence, so far, that ISIS has been showing potential recruits actual videos of Trump discussing his proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. or his suggestion that Muslims be issued special identification cards. But just as during his campaign Trump has never backed down when caught in an outright lie, Clinton also refused to admit that she was wrong.

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When Trump, the recent recipient of Politifact’s Lie of the Year award, somewhat hilariously demanded an apology from Clinton for making a false statement, the campaign fired back with a statement from spokesman Brian Fallon: “Hell, no. Hillary Clinton will not be apologizing to Donald Trump for correctly pointing out how his hateful rhetoric only helps ISIS recruit more terrorists.”

We have previously documented the typical Clinton response to scandal, and this is just a variation on the same theme.

After her campaign denied that Clinton had said anything incorrect, despite multiple media fact checks that called her out, the former secretary of state used an appearance in a small town in Iowa Tuesday to elaborate on her allegation – and to change it.

“You know, people around the world pay close attention to our elections,” Clinton said. “And if you go on Arabic television, as we have, and you look at what is being blasted out with video of Mr. Trump being translated into Arabic, 'No Muslims coming into the United States,' other kinds of derogatory, defamatory statements, it is playing into the hands of the violent jihadists.”

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“There is nothing they want more than to be able to claim that the United States is against Islam and against Muslims and that then lights an even bigger fire for them to make their propaganda claims through social media and other ways.”

While Clinton’s response to her earlier statement may be mirroring Trump in some respects, there is a qualitative difference between her way of dealing with a negative fact-check and his.

Trump, the former reality television star, typically responds to proof that he has been peddling falsehoods by repeating them – just more loudly – and claiming that a few hundred people on Twitter saying they agree with him proves that he’s right.

Clinton, who has been at this game a lot longer than Trump, and who has been taking flak from the media for decades, was a little more subtle in her response. While insisting that she hadn’t actually said anything that wasn’t true, she changed the allegation. Suddenly it wasn’t ISIS playing the videos, but the media in Arabic-speaking countries.

Related: The Top 10 Political Lies of the Year

And in that respect, at least, she isn’t wrong.

In an interview with NBC News, SITE Intelligence Group terrorism expert Rita Katz said of Trump’s relationship with ISIS, “They love him from the sense that he is supporting their rhetoric. They follow everything Donald Trump says … When he says, 'No Muslims should be allowed in America,' they tell people, 'We told you America hates Muslims and here is proof.”

If the 2016 election boils down to voters having to decide to vote against whichever one of the major party candidates is the biggest liar, the past few days suggest that Clinton may have the edge over Trump.