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Sunday

Hillary Clinton Denies Making Anti-Semitic Slur 25 Years Ago

Aired July 16, 2000 - 5:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Rodham Clinton held a news conference a short time ago to respond to allegations that she made an anti-Semitic remark more than 25 years ago.

And for more on this now we're joined by CNN's Deborah Feyerick, who is in New York.

Deborah, what is the latest on this?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brian, her voice was completely choked with emotion, as Hillary Rodham Clinton denied ever making an anti-Semitic remark, saying it is contrary to everything she believes in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), N.Y. SENATE CANDIDATE: Here we have something that was claimed to have happened 26 years ago that could not and did not happen. And I just find it really pathetic and very sad that this is the way that people are tempting to influence politics and I don't think that we should stand for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: The remark was allegedly made in 1974, the night that Bill Clinton lost his bid for Congress. A chief campaign aide at the time, a gentlemen by the name of Paul Fray, tells CNN that it was the heat of the moment that he and his wife were lashing out at the Clintons and vice versa. Fray tells CNN that he didn't think very much about the comment, but then had a change of heart saying, in his words, "when it comes to attacking my culture, that is a whole different ball game."

Now, Mrs. Clinton called the anti-Semitic remark an outrageous lie. This whole thing probably would have blown over if several major news organizations, including CNN, were investigating the remark and had confirmed the remark with Paul Fray. It was Mrs. Clinton who really made it an issue saying she has been accused of a lot of things, she said, but she was not going to let this one blow over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I knew that there would be people, unfortunately, who would be believing it or trying to push it into the body politics, and they still will, but I want it next to my absolutely unequivocal reputation of it so that anyone who tries to get someone else to believe this will at least have to say, well, you know, she says it is not true. You're darn right it is not true, it is absolutely false, and I am just tired of this kind of politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Right before the news conference, Mrs. Clinton's press people released this letter -- it is supposed to be from Paul Fray, the former campaign chief -- it is an apology letter to Mrs. Clinton asking for her forgiveness. In it he says that he called her unmentionable names both to her face and behind her back, he also says that he said many things against her. It was written three years ago. Obviously, Mrs. Clinton thought it was worth keeping.

We are live in Chappaqua, Deborah Feyerick.

Back to you, Brian.

NELSON: Thank you, Deborah.

And joining us now on the phone from Cliffside Park, New Jersey, is former "National Enquirer" reporter Jerry Oppenheimer. He is the author of "State of a Union: Inside the Complex Marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton."

Mr. Oppenheimer, thank you for being with us.

JERRY OPPENHEIMER, AUTHOR, "STATE OF A UNION": Brian, thank you for having me.

NELSON: Can you begin by telling us what is the slur that Mrs. Clinton is alleged to have uttered?

OPPENHEIMER: Well, I think you have a family audience so I'd rather not use the exact words, but it is an anti-Semitic slur. And I must say that three eyewitnesses to Hillary Clinton's slur have now publicly acknowledged that she said it. The other two were in the the room or just outside the room at the time. Hillary Clinton denies it and Bill Clinton, who was there at the time, has remained silent.

I want to say that I emphasize in my book, "State of a Union," that one nasty epithet slung in anger hardly defines a person. But there is a darker side to the story. I spent considerable time probing Hillary's family roots and what I found was that her words that night, 25 years ago, a quarter of a century ago, are not and were not isolated. I discovered and I thoroughly document in the book with on the record interviews a vein of anti-Jewish sentiment.

The story of Hillary Clinton's comment a quarter of a century ago goes far deeper and all that is detailed in the book, and of course, the book has been embargoed and won't be available to the public until Tuesday. So there is much, much more to this story than was discussed by Mrs. Clinton at the press conference today.

NELSON: I know in your book that you allege that Mrs. Clinton's family had some anti-Semitic strains, but I do not know of any anti- Semitic remarks other than the ones we just reported that you have ascribed in your book to Mrs. Clinton. Are you going into detail in your book?

OPPENHEIMER: The statement that we are dealing with in this controversy today strictly revolves around what happened at that closed door meeting. However, similar anti-Semitic slurs were uttered by other close members of her family, and I have eyewitness accounts on the record in the book relating to that, and why that is relevant is that Mrs. Clinton, who says she's never used such language, heard that kind of language while growing up.

NELSON: Mrs. Clinton said that this remark that you're reporting, this specific one, never happened, it just never, never happened.

Now, what is your immediate response to that?

OPPENHEIMER: My immediate response is that three eyewitnesses to it heard it, the man who was the target of it heard it, and two others heard it, they told it to me during the research of my book and they are now telling it to the media who are probing this story. I stand by the statements in the book, and they stand by what she said.

NELSON: Mr. Oppenheimer, how did you first learn of this?

OPPENHEIMER: In interviews with Paul Fray. My book is an all- encompassing biography of Bill and Hillary Clinton. I went back to the beginning of their lives, their childhood, and it goes all the way through. It is a straightforward biography. And during the course of researching material about Bill Clinton's first campaign...

NELSON: OK, Mr. Oppenheimer, I'm sorry, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. That is Jerry Oppenheimer, the author of "State of the Union: Inside the Complex Marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton."

OPPENHEIMER: Thank you.

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